LOS ANGELES, Ca., April 16, 2015— Today a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ordered dismissal of a $50 million defamation lawsuit filed by Michael Drobot, CEO of Healthsmart Pacific, against a group of plaintiff attorneys representing victims who allegedly received implants of defective spinal screws.
The case was dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP law (“strategic lawsuits against public participation”)—a procedure requiring trial courts to conduct an early “screening” of the merits of lawsuits that target constitutionally- protected First Amendment activity, such as filing legal claims on behalf of injured victims and discussing issues of public concern in the press.
In dismissing the defamation suit as an improper SLAPP, Judge Richard E. Rico told Drobot’s lawyers in open court that he was “shocked” the lawsuit was ever filed. Judge Rico will later consider the amount of the defendants’ legal fees that Drobot will be required to pay under the anti-SLAPP law.
Drobot’s defamation suit stemmed from comments made by the plaintiffs’ attorneys in recent media coverage of dozens of personal injury lawsuits filed against Drobot, Healthsmart Pacific, and others. The lawsuits claim surgeons installed defective, non-FDA approved hardware into possibly thousands of spinal-surgery patients.
Drobot took exception to specific statements plaintiffs’ attorneys made during a July television interview with Los Angeles station KTTV Fox 11 and a subsequent CBS radio interview about the medical fraud and personal injury cases pending against him and his company Healthsmart Pacific.
Drobot argued the law firms of Kabateck Brown Kellner, Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy and Knox Ricksen made false claims in an effort to disparage Drobot’s reputation.
“Michael Drobot’s defamation lawsuit was a baseless scare tactic meant to intimidate and distract us from focusing on the real harm suffered by our clients”, said Brian Kabateck of the Los Angeles based law firm, Kabateck Brown Kellner. “We will not be bullied into abandoning our mission of exposing dangerous medical products that can hurt consumers.”
In February 2014, Drobot pled guilty to government allegations that he paid kickbacks to surgeons for referring patients to Healthsmart Pacific. Prosecutors says Drobot also paid $28,000 in bribes to state Sen. Ron Calderon, (D) Montebello to support favorable legislation involving workers’ compensation laws.
More than a dozen defective spinal implant lawsuits are filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Drobot and Healthsmart Pacific, Riverside Community Hospital, and Spinal Solutions.