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Doctor wins in expert witness case against medical society

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 29, 2013

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A federal court has upheld an orthopedic surgeon’s jury award against the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ruling that the society unfairly portrayed the doctor in an article about his expert witness practices.

California orthopedic surgeon Steven Graboff, MD, sued the AAOS after it suspended him for allegedly giving improper expert witness testimony in a medical negligence case. His claims included publication in a false light, defamation and interference with prospective contractual relations.

In May 2012, a jury said the society falsely portrayed Dr. Graboff in a publication that detailed his discipline. Dr. Graboff was awarded $196,000 from the AAOS. He also settled with a law firm involved in the original medical negligence case, according to court documents. The AAOS appealed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In its March 28 opinion, the district court said there may be an important interest in publishing an article to AAOS members about other members; however, this interest “does not extend to making the article available to the public.” Evidence shows that the intrusion of the AAOS into the marketplace of expert orthopedic surgeons is substantial and jeopardized Dr. Graboff’s source of income as an expert, the court said. At this article’s deadline, it was unclear whether the AAOS plans to appeal.

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