Pacemaker company, sales rep must pay $67.2 million for gross negligence over unnecessary procedures

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by Michael Heygood

Tommy Sowards of Los Cruces, New Mexico, checked in to MountainView Regional Medical Center for chest pain in 2007. Within days, Dr. Demothenis Klonis and other MountainView staff conducted numerous medical procedures including the implant of pacemaker manufactured by Biotronik.

MountainView ultimately billed Tommy Sowards more than $20,000 for the pacemaker. Although Dr. Klonis has said the pacemaker was medically necessary, Dr. Klonis has repeatedly refused to turn over records to substantiate any such diagnosis.

Alleging he should not have received the Pacemaker, Sowards and his wife sued Klonis MountainView Regional Medical Center, Biotronik and Biotronik’s local sales representative Edward Tague. The Sowards alleges that that Biotronik encouraged Klonis to implant more and more pacemakers and other medical devices. The suit also alleged that Klonis and Tague lost or destroyed Sowards’ medical records.

Following a three-week trial in Las Cruces, a jury has found that Biotronik and its salesman were negligent with regard to Klonis unnecessarily implanting a pacemaker in Mr. Sowards. The jury also found that Biotronik and Tague acted with indifference to Sowards’ safety and thus awarded punitive damages. The Sowards were awarded more than $2.3 million in compensatory and loss of consortium damages. The jury also awarded punitive damages of $65 million.

There are more than 30 cases similar cases still pending. Dr. Klonis’ contract with MountainView allegedly pushed the doctor to increase the number of invasive cardiovascular procedures he performed and, according to the lawsuits, it apparently worked. In 2007, MountainView performed more permanent pacemaker implants than any other New Mexico hospital and Klonis implanted more pacemakers than any other MountainView doctor and more balloon pumps than all other doctors there combined, according to the Sowards’ lawsuit. The complaint alleges that MountainView billed more than $10 million from patients of Klonis for invasive procedures he performed over a four-year period.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson fighting for patient safety

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that when doctors, drug companies and medical device manufacturers are negligent, they should be held accountable in a court of law. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have made it a career priority to ensure that drug and medical device companies who engage in reckless conduct are held responsible for their actions. We have experience pursuing a variety of pharmaceutical and medical device matters, such as cases involving the fentanyl pain patch, Mirena, Pradaxa, Actos and Avandia, and various medical devices including transvaginal mesh products and hip and knee replacements.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. In addition, our partners—Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson—are not only all Board Certified*, they have also all been named by their peers as Super Lawyers** for many years in a row, an honor given only to the top 5% of attorneys.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a doctor, a dangerous drug or a medical device, you have legal rights. For a free legal consultation about your case and to learn more about whether you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for your injuries, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.