CA Court Upholds $4.7M Judgment for Surgeon Against Cedars Sinai

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , May 31, 2011

The appellate court upheld the lower court award of $508,124 in economic damages, $1,603,650 in emotional distress damages and $2,580,000 in punitive damages. Also, Shahinian voluntarily withdraws from the Cedars-Sinai medical staff and withdraws staff privileges.

Cedars Sinai officials yesterday said as a rule, they don't comment on pending litigation, but decided to do so in this case "to set the record straight in light of Dr. Shahinian's incomplete and inaccurate statements in his recent news release. The hospital is considering a further appeal.

"Although this matter remains pending in the appellate system, Dr. Shahinian has made certain claims about the outcome of the process so far that are incorrect as to what both the arbitrator and Court of Appeal actually decided" the hospital said in a statement.

For example, the arbitrator did not vindicate Shahinian, and found that his competence "was at issue. However she refused to decide one way or the other whether the concerns that Cedars-Sinai harbored about Dr. Shahinian's competence were justified," the hospital statement said.

Additionally, the arbitrator "found that parts of Dr. Shahinian's testimony lacked credibility," and that "last year, in a case having nothing whatever to do with Cedars-Sinai...a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found Dr. Shahinian for both professional negligence and fraud. It awarded over $950,000 against him, including $300,000 in punitive damages."

Los Angeles attorney Philip Baker of Baker, Keener & Nahra, said he was "surprised the hospital made it such a public issue, by appealing it to the Court of Appeal, knowing that there would be disclosure of brain matter and bioburden that remained on instruments. That's a tactical decision I never fully grasped."

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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