Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP won a $2.1 million jury verdict against Los Angeles County on behalf of a vascular surgeon, Timothy Ryan, M.D., who blew the whistle at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Fulfilling his duty as a medical professional, he reported what he believed to be unlawful, unethical activity that endangered patients for another surgeon’s financial gain.
“This case is about holding surgery department leadership and hospital administrators accountable for the misconduct of physicians that puts patients' lives at risk,” said lead trial attorney and GBW partner Mark Quigley. “Instead of taking our client's claims seriously, they made his life a living hell by destroying his career path, simply because he did the right thing.”
The lawsuit came after Dr. Ryan suffered years of retaliation, receiving zero protection from the county. Dr. Ryan had refused to perform what was, in his professional opinion, a medically unnecessary surgery that showed signs of insurance fraud. Instead, he reported his suspicions to the appropriate avenues. The surgical procedure in question was part of a “course,” for which Harbor-UCLA surgeons would receive kickbacks from Medtronic, a medical device company.
“Rather than receive the protection he was assured by his employer to have, Dr. Ryan became a pariah at work after he reported these dangerous and unethical practices,” said Aaron Osten, trial attorney at GBW. “We're glad the jury recognized the damage caused to Dr. Ryan's career when an institution chooses profits over people.”
On behalf of Dr. Ryan, GBW demonstrated in a five-week trial that the chief of vascular surgery, Rodney White M.D, was receiving payments for Medtronic courses. Further, we showed that Dr. White had gone so far as to fish through patient charts to find a specific patient for an upcoming course.
Next, through testimony, we exposed how Dr. White and his subordinates coerced the chosen patient to undergo a stent-graft procedure, fabricating symptoms to obtain insurance authorization. The medically unnecessary surgery led to complications (retrograde dissection and stroke) for the patient, who then suffered severe and permanent physical injuries.
“As physicians, we are ethically bound to put the patient's interest first,” Dr. Ryan explained. “Physicians must not be driven or influenced by our own financial gain, particularly when that money comes from a surgical implant manufacturer. I spoke out because it was the right thing to do. Rather than having my complaints investigated, I became the target of retaliation, and the hospital chose to ultimately ignore the fundamental duty to protect patients in our care.”
Learn more about this case on our press release.
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