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UCLA Doctor, U.C. Regents Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit

Dr. Robert Pedowitz alleged he suffered a backlash after detecting and disclosing conflicts of interest and other misconduct by physicians within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Robert Pedowitz. Photo courtesy of UCLA.
Dr. Robert Pedowitz. Photo courtesy of UCLA.

By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service

A UCLA physician and the University of California Board of Regents today settled the doctor's whistleblower suit alleging he suffered a backlash after detecting and disclosing conflicts of interest and other misconduct by doctors within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Terms of the accord -- which was reached after a jury impaneled March 3 had heard weeks of testimony in trial of the lawsuit brought by Dr. Robert Pedowitz -- were not divulged.

The lawyers had been scheduled to deliver their final arguments today.

Pedowitz was recruited as chairman of the UCLA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 2009, but resigned a year later and alleged he was induced by management at that time to sign a settlement agreement.

Pedowitz's attorney, Mark Quigley, said the doctor was pleased with the resolution of the lawsuit.

UCLA spokesman Tod Tamberg released a statement on behalf of the university.

"The Regents of the University of California resolved this lawsuit to end a prolonged conflict and permit UCLA Health Sciences to refocus on its primary missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement," the statement reads. "Although disappointed that court rulings early in the trial prevented the jury from hearing the full story, UCLA acted fully within the scope of law and UC policy in this case."

Multiple investigations by university officials and independent investigators concluded that conduct by faculty members was lawful, according to UCLA.

"Patient care was not compromised," the statement read. "UCLA adheres to stringent ethical and procedural guidelines and will continue efforts to do so."

Pedowitz sued the regents and several UCLA doctors in Los Angeles Superior Court in May 2012, alleging he was a whistleblower who suffered retaliation as a result of coming forward with his concerns. He said the allegedly inappropriate conduct by some of the other department physicians included using the UCLA logo on personal websites without getting official permission.

He also alleged two other UCLA doctors were paid as long-term members of the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation without disclosing their outside income.

Pedowitz additionally claimed he was wrongfully demoted and that another UCLA physician defamed him by distributing to the faculty what Pedowitz said was false information concerning his previous employment at the University of South Florida. He said he would not have agreed to step down from his chairmanship as part of the 2010 settlement had he known at the time that the memo was being circulated.

"The regents concealed the (memo) from me," Pedowitz stated in a sworn declaration. "I was not aware of its existence until June 27, 2011, when I was shocked to find it in response to my public records request."

Pedowitz maintained that "nearly every accusation" in the memo was false, including allegations that he tried to fire another doctor while at the University of South Florida, that he screamed and yelled at secretaries in the Department of Neurosurgery and that he threatened a resident physician with probation.

Pedowitz continued to work at UCLA after stepping down from his chairmanship, but maintained that the retaliation against him did not let up. He alleged he was excluded from taking part in some grant applications and was not allowed to participate in the UCLA athletic program, even though he was involved in similar assignments at the University of California San Diego and at the University of South Florida.

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