Former Long Beach hospital executive Michael Drobot, who has admitted to running a massive workers compensation fraud scheme, is suing a group of attorneys who claim he told surgeons to implant counterfeit spinal hardware into the spines of patients at his hospital.
Calling the allegations "patently false" and "malicious," Drobot on Wednesday filed a $50 million defamation suit against attorneys Brian Kabateck and Robert Hutchinson, and the law firms of Kabateck Brown Kellner, Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy and Knox Ricksen.
Kabateck and Hutchinson had made the claims in media interviews, according to Drobot's suit. Their firms have filed various lawsuits on behalf of spinal surgery patients who accuse Drobot, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, other medical centers and doctors of implanting non-FDA-approved screws made in a Temecula machine shop.
The targets of Drobot’s defamation suit were defiant.
"This is a bully who is using lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people," said Frank Pitre of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy, who said he has been designated to speak on behalf of all of the named defendants. "We won't be scared in our effort to expose issues about public safety."
A release announcing Drobot's suit said he had sworn "under oath" that he and Pacific Hospital of Long Beach "never purchased or used any non-FDA-approved screws or other related parts made with non-FDA-approved materials for use in...spinal surgeries."
However, a December 2012 Pacific Hospital of Long Beach invoice obtained by KPCC states that a spinal surgery patient "was told that the hardware to be used is not FDA approved and may need to be removed in the future."
In February, federal authorities indicted Drobot, and he pleaded guilty to paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to doctors for referring thousands of workers compensation patients to his hospital for spinal surgeries; submitting inflated claims to workers compensation insurers worth about $500 million; and bribing former State Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) in an attempt to kill legislation that would have cut into his profits.
As part of his plea deal, Drobot is cooperating with ongoing government investigations.
Because of that cooperation, Drobot's lawyers and the federal Department of Justice have asked for a postponement of his sentencing from December to October 2015.