A medical malpractice suit involving Dr. Spyros Panos, a former board-certified orthopedic surgeon in New York, was recently settled for approximately $40 million. Panos was a Dutchess County doctor who was just recently released from a federal prison after a conviction for significant health care fraud. Although his criminal matter is behind him, he and his former employer, Mid-Hudson Medical Group (MHMG), were still facing approximately 260 civil claims of medical malpractice. The attorneys for the many plaintiffs had been working as a “plaintiff committee”. One attorney explained that this agreement is unlikely to make the harmed patients “whole again”, but that the settlement was reasonable.
In 2013, Panos, who practiced in Poughkeepsie, NY, had pled guilty to defrauding insurance providers out of millions of dollars and then served three years of a four-year prison sentence. In addition, he was levied a fine of $250,000, forced to make $5 million in restitution in Medicare reimbursements, and had his medical license revoked. Panos was accused of conducting unnecessary surgery on patients. A plaintiff lawyer explained that they are glad to “bring closure to the victims of this serial malpractice abuser.” Many of the victims continue to face significant ongoing pain and various physical challenges.
Panos often performed dozens of procedures per day, while MHMG filed over $35,000,000 in claims to coverage providers. There were instances where he supposedly saw between 60 and 90 patients in a day. To give some perspective, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery data shows that a typical orthopedic surgeon averages about 32 procedures in a month. During one period between 2007 and 2011, Panos received compensation of approximately $7.5 million. As soon as Panos became the subject of an investigation, he cited clerical errors as the source of the problem, saying that surgical documentation was incorrectly being transcribed.
Many of his victims have come forward, such as Pam Bisaccia, who has been unable to walk after Panos performed operations on her Achilles tendons. She described her pain as “walking on hot coals” and says it is too painful to simply have her grandchildren sit on her lap. Christine Steele, a mother of two, had two knee operations performed by Panos that were deemed later to be unnecessary and left her disabled. Debra Nenni McNamee said her mother had a “faked” knee surgery and is glad that justice is now being served.
The system for compensating the many victims of malpractice is unique. The settlement compensation will be paid by Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company and Healthcare Professionals Insurance Company according to a “point system.” Each point is equivalent to $2,500 and will be allocated to patients based on the severity of the injuries incurred. One plaintiff attorney described this process as “complicated, with complex legal and medical issues.” The final amount that each plaintiff will receive is currently being finalized and the payments are expected to be made in the next six months.