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UC OKs paying surgeon $10 million in
whistleblower-retaliation case
The settlement ends a case brought
by the ex-head of UCLA's orthopedic
surgery department, who says the
medical school allowed doctors to
take industry payments that may
have compromised patient care.
By Chad Terhune
Los Angeles Times
April 22, 2014

University of California regents agreed to pay $10
million to the former chairman of UCLA's orthopedic
surgery department, who had alleged that the
well-known medical school allowed doctors to take
industry payments that may have compromised
patient care.

The settlement reached Tuesday in Los Angeles
County Superior Court came just before closing
arguments were due to begin in a whistleblower-
retaliation case brought by Dr. Robert Pedowitz,
54, a surgeon who was recruited to UCLA in 2009
to run the orthopedic surgery department.

In 2012, the surgeon sued UCLA, the UC regents,
fellow surgeons and senior university officials,
alleging they failed to act on his complaints about
widespread conflicts of interest and later retaliated
against him for speaking up.

UCLA denied Pedowitz's allegations, and officials
said they found no wrongdoing by faculty and no
evidence that patient care was jeopardized. But
the UC system paid him anyway, saying it wanted
to avoid the "substantial expense and inconvenience"
of further litigation.

As department chairman, Pedowitz testified, he became concerned about colleagues
who had financial ties to medical-device makers or other companies that could unduly
influence their care of patients or taint important medical research.

He also alleged that UCLA looked the other way because the university stood to
benefit financially from the success of medical products or drugs developed by its

One of the orthopedic surgeons that Pedowitz complained about testified at trial about
receiving $250,000 in consulting fees in 2008 from device maker Medtronic. In memos
to university officials, Pedowitz raised concerns about the financial dealings of other
doctors as well.

Inside the courtroom Tuesday, Pedowitz sat in the front row with his wife and daughter
as the judge told jurors that a settlement had been reached. He said he felt vindicated
by the outcome.

"These are serious issues that patients should be worried about," Pedowitz said in an
interview. "These problems exist in the broader medical system and they are not
restricted to UCLA."

The seven-week trial in downtown Los Angeles offered a rare glimpse into those
potential conflicts at a time when there is growing government scrutiny of industry
payments to doctors.

Starting this fall, the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, part of President
Obama's healthcare law, requires public disclosure of financial relationships between
healthcare companies and physicians.

Many doctors and universities defend long-standing industry arrangements as
essential for carrying out cutting-edge research and top-flight medical education.

In a statement Tuesday, the UC regents said they "resolved this lawsuit to end a
prolonged conflict and permit UCLA Health Sciences to refocus on its primary
missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement."

The statement added that "multiple investigations by university officials and
independent investigators concluded that conduct by faculty members was lawful.
Patient care was not compromised."

This latest settlement eclipses a $4.5-million payout the UC regents made last year to
resolve a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by another UCLA surgeon.

Pedowitz, as part of his settlement, left the UCLA faculty, effective Tuesday. He had
agreed to step down as department chairman in 2010 after initially voicing his
concerns to top UCLA officials. He filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint in March

Experts in medical ethics say the UCLA case shows much
more needs to be done within academia and by government
regulators to address potential conflicts of interest in

Susan Chimonas, associate director of research at Columbia University's Center on
Medicine as a Profession, said some medical schools are still reluctant to take on
specialists who bring in considerable money from patients, medical research and
patents on breakthrough products.

"Institutions can be dependent on the money these big-earning specialties like
orthopedic surgery bring in," Chimonas said. "They are the cash cows and they can
set their terms. This is not the first time I've heard of medical schools having policies
that are not well enforced."

In an interview last week, the chief compliance officer at the
UCLA Health System flatly rejected the notion that the
university didn't enforce its policies or look fully into
Pedowitz's allegations.
She also said industry ties are unavoidable at a big
medical school and rules are in place to prevent conflicts.

"We have processes in place to identify those relationships in a transparent fashion
and ensure they don't have any inappropriate influence on the actions of the
university," said Marti Arvin, chief compliance officer. "In order to meet our mission, it
is important we have both the brilliant minds we have at UCLA and collaboration with

Arvin said the university "thoroughly and objectively investigated those allegations of
noncompliance raised by Dr. Pedowitz. We were able to determine the vast majority
were unsubstantiated."

She said two doctors fell short of university expectations in their handling of outside
income, but there was no violation of law or university policy in either instance.

Arvin cited the case of Dr. Nick Shamie, the orthopedic surgeon who testified at trial
about receiving $250,000 from Medtronic for consulting work. She said department
policy at the time didn't require Shamie to send that outside income through UCLA's
faculty compensation plan.

At trial, Pedowitz said he was deeply troubled by the large amount of money Shamie
was paid. He testified that he was particularly concerned that Shamie was trying to
enroll patients in a research study involving Medtronic at the time.

"I saw this as an obvious problem," Pedowitz testified.

In court, Shamie said he abided by university policy and didn't pursue the study
further because finding patients was too difficult. He couldn't be reached for additional

The other physician cited by Arvin for a potential shortcoming was Dr. David
McAllister, vice chairman of clinical operations for the orthopedic surgery department.

He didn't report payments from the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, a
nonprofit tissue bank that does business with UCLA, because he didn't think
disclosure was required in that instance because it didn't involve a for-profit entity,
Arvin said.

McAllister also declined to comment, referring a call to UCLA.

Shortly before Pedowitz joined UCLA in 2009, the university was already facing
criticism from Congress over the failure of a top spine surgeon to report nearly
$460,000 in payments he received from Medtronic and other medical companies while
researching their products' use in patients, government records show.

Dr. Jeffrey Wang, who left for USC Spine Center last fall, stepped down as head of
UCLA's spine program in 2009 after U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) publicized
his lapse in disclosure as part of a larger investigation into medical conflicts of interest.

Several patients are now suing Wang and UCLA in state court for negligence, fraud
and malpractice in connection with surgeries involving Medtronic's controversial Infuse
bone graft. UCLA said it doesn't comment on pending litigation. Wang couldn't be
reached for comment.

Shortly after raising his concerns, Pedowitz said, he was pressured to step down as
department chairman in 2010. Pedowitz said he was further retaliated against by
being denied patient referrals and prevented from participating in grants and other

Before UCLA, Pedowitz worked at UC San Diego and as chairman of orthopedics and
sports medicine at the University of South Florida.

Mark Quigley, an attorney representing Pedowitz, said the case could have been
avoided if the UC system enforced the policies it already has in place.

"What good are all the policies if they protect the wrongdoers
and fail to protect the actual whistleblower?" Quigley said.
"The university wanted to cover it all up."
"What good are all the
policies if they protect
the wrongdoers and
fail to protect the
actual whistleblower?"
Quigley said. "The
university wanted to
cover it all up."
More University of California lawsuits
More University of California
Prominent Judge to
Get $500K in Police
Brutality Claim
The judge claimed he was
treated unfairly by UCLA
campus police when stopped
By Mateo Melero
Jul 12, 2014  

David Cunningham, left,
alleged he was roughed up
by UCLA police during a
traffic stop for a seatbelt
violation. He's pictured in this
file photo from 2004 when he
was president of the Board of
Police Commissioners.

UCLA will pay $500,000 to a
prominent judge who claimed
campus police officers
roughed him up after pulling
him over for a seatbelt
violation last year, according
to a joint statement released
Friday by UCLA and an
attorney for the judge.

The case was settled after
Judge David Cunningham III
filed a $10 million claim in

He claimed that two campus
officers cuffed him and threw
him into the back of a squad
car after he had finished his
morning workout at a gym in
Westwood on Nov. 23, 2013.

The officers acted after he
got out of his car to retrieve
his car insurance and
registration information and
refused orders to get back in
his car, the university said.

The incident caused him
"serious injury and damages
to his mind, body and
reputation," his attorney Carl
Douglas contended shortly
after the confrontation.

As part of the settlement,
Cunningham will receive
$150,000 from the university
and a $350,000 scholarship
fund in his name.

UCLA police will also be
required to train on issues of
understanding diversity, bias,
and the use of force,
according to a statement from
both parties.

A one-day community forum
will be held to discuss police
and community relations.
UCLA Patient
American doctor settles
discrimination suit
UCLA Medical Center Reaches $10M Settlement
with Whistleblower
The National Trial Lawyers
May 6, 2014
by Andrew Findley        

UCLA Medical Center reached $10 million settlement with whistleblowing faculty

Attorneys for UCLA Medical Center reached a last minute $10 million settlement with
a whistleblowing doctor who claimed medical industry payments compromised
patient care.  The settlement was reached just before closing arguments in Los
Angeles Superior Court...

Attorneys also claimed that false rumors about Dr. Pedowitz were spread
throughout the orthopedic department in an effort to gain support for his
removal as chairman.  Evidence was presented at trial that his retaliatory
claims weren’t investigated for more than a year after he made them, and
that he was forced to sign the 2010 settlement agreement without being
provided with documentation of the defamatory campaign.  He was finally
able to get copies after making a public records request.

Defense attorney Michael Lucey of Gordon & Rees in San Francisco
said Dr.
Pedowitz was asked to step down based on poor leadership abilities and interaction
with faculty and staff.  

Defendants also argued that the defamatory statements about Dr. Pedowitz were
substantially true and were not widely circulated

[Maura Larkins' comment:  Of course they argued that.  But then they gave ten
million reasons that indicate that they did not expect that their arguments would be
found credible in court.]

They further contended that to fulfill its mission, UCLA Medical Center had to
collaborate with industry, and that such ties are unavoidable at a research

[Maura Larkins' comment:   Sure, ties are inevitable, but those ties should not be
secret and they should not be harmful to patients and the public.  After all, this is a
public institution.]

Lucey represented the Regents of the University of California and two doctors;
Richard A. Paul of Paul Plevin & Sullivan of San Diego represented three other
doctors named as defendants.

The case is Robert Pedowitz, MD v. The Regents of the University of California, et
al.  The trial was held in Los Angeles Superior Court, case number BC 484611.
UC whistle-blowers
Maura Larkins comment:

If UCLA's slanders of
Pedowitz had actual
merit, then UCLA would
have shown it at trial.  
Pedowitz would have lost
his nerve and settled for
peanuts instead of
holding out for $10
million.  Why didn’t UCLA
want a verdict after
having gone through an
entire trial except for
closing arguments?
Employees File
Lawsuit to Protect
Patient Safety
Figari Law Firm Alleges
Habitual Misconduct by
Management at Oliveview-
ULCA Medical Center, Site of
Recent Stabbing Incident, Puts
Patients Lives at Risk

Los Angeles, California
(PRWEB) November 10, 2014

The management of the Olive
View-UCLA Medical Center is
the principal defendant in a
new lawsuit that alleges
wrongdoing on the center’s
part in the treatment of its
patients and staff. The Olive
View UCLA Medical Center is a
377 bed county hospital
located in the north end of the
San Fernando Valley, about
30 minutes away from the
UCLA main campus. The
medical center primarily serves
the needs of low income and
indigent patients as well as the
surrounding middle class

The lawsuit was filed in Los
Angeles Superior Court
(BC563103) by The Figari Law
Firm of Pasadena, California
which specializes in
employment and civil rights
cases. Barbara E. Figari is the
lead trial counsel on the case.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf
of a group of 22 former and
current employees.

The Plaintiffs allege that
management maintained an
improper staff to patient ratio,
in violation of state law,
designed to maximize hospital
profits. This alleged practice
not only created an unsafe
working environment for its
employees, but also created a
habitual risk to both employee
and patient’s lives.

Furthermore, when
staff members
brought this to
attention and sought
to improve conditions
at the facility, they
alleged that they were
retaliated against,
harassed, and
threatened. The
lawsuit alleges that
management even
sought action against
employee’s licenses
in retaliation to
complaints that
employees made to
the proper authorities
in the matter.

This release was written and
researched by the Figari Law
(UCSD lawsuits) and general
Lawyers at UC
(UCLA tort claim)
(UCLA lawsuits) 1
(UCLA lawyers)
UCLA lawsuits 2
UC general counsel
Code of silence