The Florida Department of Health’s Board of Medicine has found no probable cause for some of the first complaints filed against plastic surgeon Loren Clayman.
Clayman’s attorney didn’t return a request for comment. And a previous spokesman who talked on behalf of the family said he no longer worked for Clayman.
The Florida Times-Union first wrote about three women who said Clayman severely disfigured their breasts and caused burning pain that even years later won’t subside. Clayman, who emphasizes how cheap his surgeries cost in his advertisements, performed subsequent surgeries for the three women for free, covering them with a product warranty.
After that story, about 600 more women said their stories were remarkably similar and called Chris Shakib, the attorney who filed medical malpractice suits for the first three women, Shakib said. About two dozen women also called the Times-Union. After reading about the first three women’s stories in the Times-Union, Florida Department of Health investigators asked them to file complaints against Clayman, Shakib said.
Health Department letters dated Wednesday said a review panel “determined that probable cause did not exist and directed that the case be closed.” Once probable cause is found not to exist, the records are sealed. The women have 60 days to send the health department more information, which Shakib said they will do.
Even if those appeals fail, 35 women have filed lawsuits, 22 have filed notices of intent, and 200 more are in the pre-suit stage with Shakib, according to the attorney. Other lawyers are also representing women who have filed lawsuits or are in the pre-suit stage.
While the medical malpractice lawsuit process can move slowly, the health department is able to investigate and act more quickly against doctors who have provided insufficient care.
The health department’s letters don’t explain what defense Clayman offered. Shakib said he’d been repeatedly trying to get in touch with the health department’s prosecutions services unit with no success before the letters arrived.
Previously, Clayman’s attorney, Rick Ramsey, said that Loren Clayman and his son Mark “are highly trained and skilled physicians who adamantly deny the allegations brought against them. They have a very loyal following of patients and fully intend to defend themselves against these accusations, many of which are completely false and/or exaggerated.”
According to health department spokesman Brad Dalton, the unit has 52 attorneys devoted to the review and prosecution of all cases investigated by the department.
Leslie Goller, another attorney working with Shakib, said that the administrative process is unfair to patients. The patients are contacted for interviews early in the investigative process, but after that, they get no information about Clayman’s defense. Clayman, on the other hand, was allowed to lobby the health department’s prosecution services unit, she said.
Three times in the 1980s, the Florida Department of Health found violations against Clayman, including one operation when he left a surgical sponge inside a patient. The two other times, he didn’t keep proper records of medications. Because complaints are confidential unless the health department finds probable cause, it’s unknown how many times women have filed complaints against Clayman.
Of the 600 women who called Shakib, only about 250 could still sue. The others had cases from too long ago, Shakib said.
Medical malpractice cases are particularly slow-moving, and they can’t be combined into a mass tort claim because each must individually prove that the doctor caused harm.
Shakib said the women who called him had remarkably similar stories.
Many were new mothers who wanted breast reductions or breast lifts. Instead, many of the women who have filed lawsuits or spoken to the Times-Union said that Clayman used implants that significantly increased the size of their breasts. Their nipples pointed in opposite and unnatural directions. They complained of burning pain.
“What’s particularly crazy is we’re not just talking about some isolated incident that one patient is complaining about,” he said this week. “We’re talking about what is a public health emergency in Duval County.”
Shakib has argued in lawsuits that Clayman profited off the cheap surgeries because of reimbursements from Allergan, the breast-implant manufacturer, which would pay $1,200, according to records, for each reparative surgery.
Allergan’s deflation rate is 1.2 percent, Shakib said, citing statistics the company used when getting FDA approval, yet the Claymans have said 5,516 implants they used had deflated. In 2014 alone, the Claymans told Allergan that 1,057 implants they put in women were defective, according to Shakib.
Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310
You can read the original Times-Union article here.