A woman who underwent two back surgeries at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach in California has filed a suit claiming that the metal screws used to fuse her spine were fakes made in a Temecula machine shop.
The owner of that machine shop is named in the lawsuit, as is the doctor, Pacific Hospital, and its owner. Mary Cavalieri says the fake medical screws caused medical complications which led to another surgery to have the screws removed. However, the lawsuit claims she couldn't have the full metal device removed because of additional risks, including death.
The owner of the facility, Michael Drobot, allegedly oversaw a vast scheme that included making the cheap parts, distributing them to different hospitals for a lot of money, and bribing doctors to steer patients to his hospital to have surgeries done using the knockoffs.
Drobot just happens to be the same hospital executive who recently admitted, as part of a plea deal with Federal authorities, that he bribed California State Senator Ron Calderon.
The Montebello Democrat is being charged by the Feds with accepting money and bribes to try to preserve a workers’ compensation rule that benefited Drobot. While Calderon’s case remains unresolved, Drobot admitted to funneling bribes to Calderon, and overcharging for medical implants for which he requested reimbursement from insurance companies and workmen comp carriers.
Mary Cavalieri’s lawsuit adds the explosive allegation that she underwent spinal surgeries at Drobot’s Pacific Hospital, and says that knockoff devices were built at the Temecula manufacturing shop that closed after FDA raids.
Her attorney Brian Kaboteck says the parts “were not FDA supervised, they weren’t necessarily clean and they may not have even been the right material”.
Michael Drobot’s attorney, Don Norris, counters with “the lawsuit is completely unfounded. The hardware was purchased from FDA approved manufacturers, and we have the documentation.”
Kaboteck goes on to say “there is certainly connections here between legislation that had been passed, legislation authored or championed by Senator Calderon and Michael Drobot and we know this legislation was the vehicle by which they were able to perpetuate the fraud.” Calderon is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The complaint also mentions that when Ron Calderon’s brother, Tom, lost his state assembly seat, he became a consultant to Pacific Hospital. Between 2001 and 2010, the facility performed at least 5,138 spinal fusions. Insurance companies were billed over 500 million dollars, three times more than any other hospital in the state.
One of those patients is Mary Cavalieri, but her attorneys fear there are many, many more, possibly thousands. The FDA and other federal authorities are investigating if the devices were sold to other hospitals. What is scarier, Kaboteck says, is that many of the patients didn’t even need to have the surgeries to begin with, and now they are walking around with low grade hardware in their bodies that may cause them serious health issues, perhaps even death.