$6.1 MILLION VERDICT AGAINST CENTRO MEDICO COMMUNITY CLINIC FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION OF WHISTLEBLOWER
–Clinic fired doctor who reported illegal management practices and exploitation of patients–
Bakersfield, CA – On February 9, 2017, Timothy D. McGonigle, PC, a plaintiff’s professional malpractice and business litigation firm working in conjunction with Braunstein & Braunstein, PC, achieved a $6.1 million verdict on behalf of Dr. Saied Ibrahim Saied and Dr. Nagy Philips Bebawy against Centro Medico Community Clinic, Inc. for wrongful termination. Lead Counsel, McGonigle proved that Rigaud and Veney, the primary operators of Centro Medico Community Clinic, fired Dr. Saied and Dr. Bebaway in retaliation for reporting the clinic’s illegal practices and exploitation of patients.
“The defendants violated their nonprofit charter by turning away patients who did not have the money to be treated, recommended medically unnecessary tests so they could overcharge patients, and allowed someone who was not a doctor to act as Medical Director,” said McGonigle. “These practices were illegal and exploitative. We’re pleased that the jury arrived at the same conclusion, achieving justice for Dr. Saied and Dr. Bebawy and bringing much-needed reform to the clinic.”
In addition to the verdict, the Honorable David L. Minning, after the first phase of a bifurcated trial on the unfair business practices claims against the clinic, Rigaud and Veney, appointed a Receiver for the clinic which resulted in judicial supervision of the clinic that brought about vast improvements to its services, and it is now fulfilling its mission as a nonprofit to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.
In 2002, Dr. Bebawy, Dr. Saied, and Rigaud re-opened the existing Centro Medico Community Clinic as a nonprofit corporation, with Dr. Bebawy to serve as Medical Director and Rigaud to serve as Chief Executive Officer; Veney was named Director of Operations in 2004. In obtaining tax exempt status as a Federally Qualified Health Center, the clinic was required to treat all patients, including those who could not pay for treatment. Additionally, as Medical Director, Dr. Bebawy reported to the Board of Directors and was responsible for hiring all medical staff.
In 2007, Dr. Bebawy filed a lawsuit against Rigaud and the clinic for fraud, interference with prospective relations, Lanham Act violations and declaratory relief. Over the course of several years, Rigaud and Veney had taken total control over the clinic, preventing Dr. Bebawy from interviewing or hiring medical personnel, excluding him from Board of Directors meetings and wrongfully barring him from having any financial oversight or control. The lawsuit was settled on the condition that the defendants correct the problems that were the basis of the complaint, but Dr. Bebawy filed another suit in 2011 for breach of this settlement agreement, as Rigaud and Veney were continuing to operate and manage the clinic without oversight from any other licensed medical doctor. As a result, Riguad cut Dr. Bebaway’s salary and subsequently terminated him.
On September 27, 2012, Dr. Saied filed a lawsuit against Rigaud, Veney and the clinic, and reported to the California Medical Board. The clinic was turning away patients due to their inability to pay for medical services, repeatedly overcharging patients by ordering medically unnecessary tests, charging extra for certain necessary services such as blood tests, and adding administrative fees. In response to these actions, in early 2013, Rigaud cut Dr. Saied’s hours in half and began paying him only half his prior salary. In September 2013, Dr. Saied was fired in retaliation for reporting the clinic’s illegal activities and refusing to drop the complaint.
Based in Los Angeles, Timothy D. McGonigle, PC, was established in 1986. The firm has come to be recognized as one of the most respected plaintiffs’ professional malpractice and business litigation firms in the state. Representing individuals, small businesses and corporations with equal proficiency, Mr. McGonigle is uniquely positioned to provide effective representation to clients on any side of a dispute.
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After an arbitration spanning two weeks and heard before three retired judges, Mr. McGonigle persuaded the arbitrators that the former attorney and law firm had an active conflict of interest as the former law firm inappropriately had the elderly client sign an engagement letter one-and-a-half years after the representation began which made the elderly client jointly liable with his business partner for the law firm’s fees, including for litigation solely involving the business partner, without adequately disclosing that the business partner had significant debts and would likely be unable to pay the fees. The arbitrators thus denied the request for approximately $1.5 million in attorney’s fees and costs.
A copy of the 69-page arbitration decision can be obtained by contacting the firm at 310-478-7110..
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