Greene Broillet & Wheeler attorneys Mark Quigley, Ivan Puchalt and Christian Nickerson have been nominated for the Trial Lawyer of the Year award by the Consumer Attorneys of California for their work in the case of Pedowitz v. The Regents of The University of California. A recap of the case and insights from our attorneys appears below.
Concerns About Conflict of Interest Raised
Dr. Robert Pedowitz joined the staff of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2009, taking on the role of Chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery.
Shortly after his arrival, Dr. Pedowitz raised concerns about the compensation that staff physicians were receiving from medical device and product manufacturers. At the time, the faculty used various medical devices and told patients how wonderful the devices were, but they did not disclose to patients that they had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the companies that manufacture the devices.
Attorney Mark Quigley notes that “The conflict is that doctors should be informing their patients that they are promoting certain products or devices that are being put into patients’ bodies, but at the same time should be telling patients that they are receiving compensation from the companies so they have a bit of a bias.”
Punished for Bringing the Issue to Light
When Dr. Pedowitz brought this fact to light, the faculty did not want the additional income that came from these device manufacturers to go away. They banded together, wrote a letter to the dean of the medical school, and had Dr. Pedowitz ousted.
Dr. Pedowitz retained the services of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against the University of California Regents, UCLA, and certain surgeons and university officials.
Attorney Christian Nickerson describes the firm’s involvement: “Our firm was given a great opportunity to represent someone who is an advocate for patient safety and the public good – someone who was trying to do the right thing even though he knew he would be met with substantial backlash.”
Standing Up for Dr. Pedowitz and His Reputation
Attorney Ivan Puchalt on the difficulty and layers of complexity present in the case: “This was a challenging case because on UCLA’s side there were nearly 30 surgeons all saying bad things about Dr. Pedowitz, and we had to overcome that at trial. We were able to overcome that because everyone who actually worked with Dr. Pedowitz and had firsthand experience with him had positive things to say. After taking over 100 depositions, we realized it was really leadership that had influenced everybody else, and a lot of the negative information about Dr. Pedowitz was secondhand and didn’t hold up at trial.”
A Settlement and an Apology
After eight weeks of trial, the day of closing arguments arrived, and the case settled for $10 million.
The hard part, according to attorney Mark Quigley, was that “Dr. Pedowitz required the defendants to give him a written apology for what they had done to him.” The day of the settlement, the new chair of the department sent an apology letter, expressing regret that he and other colleagues shared remarks and information about Dr. Pedowitz that ultimately proved to be flawed. Quigley notes “There was not a happier day in my life, and I’m sure in Dr. Pedowitz’s too, to see the case resolved and receive that letter.”
The Future of Disclosure and Conflict of Interest Cases
Regarding the firm’s work and the future of these types of cases, attorney Christian Nickerson notes: “We were advocates for the public good, and we believe that this case will have a ripple effect on disclosure and compliance in the medical community.”
Attorney Mark Quigley agrees, stating, “This case sends a message to big business, industry and the medical profession that they need to clean up their act.”