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Tenet appeals $10M arbitration award to whistleblower physicians


Tenet Healthcare Corp. is appealing a ruling Monday by the U.S. District Court in Detroit that refused to vacate or seal a $10 million arbitration award to two whistleblower physicians.

Dr. Amir Kaki and Dr. Mahir Elder are two prominent cardiologists who held directorships and other privileges at Detroit Medical Center until defendants including Dallas-based Tenet refused to renew them, according to the ruling by the U.S. District Court in Dr. Amir Kaki et al. v. Tenet Healthcare Corp., et al.

The defendants claimed this was because of an investigation that revealed “various conduct violations,” while the plaintiffs claimed “it was retaliation for complaints they made regarding patient safety and Medicare/Medicaid fraud,” according to the ruling.

The plaintiffs filed suit in March 2019 alleging violations of the False Claims Act, and the court ordered the case arbitrated. The arbitrator awarded the plaintiffs damages of more than $10 million and equitable relief including, among other things, a one-year reinstatement of their privileges at Detroit Medical Center.

Tenet argued that the arbitrator had exceeded her authority, but the district court disagreed, saying the defendants failed to prove that the award flies “in the face of clearly established legal precedent.”

The defendants “not only attempt to relitigate the legal issues but also endeavor to introduce a factual counternarrative unmoored from the findings of the arbitrator and including evidence which the Arbitrator specifically found inadmissible,” the court said in confirming the award and refusing to seal it.

The defendants in the case have filed an appeal of the ruling with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

“The doctors were subjected to blatant retaliation for raising significant concerns about patient safety and fraud,” plaintiff attorney Deborah L. Gordon of the Law Offices of Deborah L. Gordon in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, said in a statement. “The arbitrator found that Tenet’s stated reasons as to why they removed my clients were a ‘pretext’ to cover the retaliation. The arbitration lasted 18 days; the testimony overwhelmingly proved Tenet’s wrongdoing.”

Attorneys for Tenet did not respond to a request for comment.