County pays suspended UMC doctor $65,000, faces legal fees demand

Dr. Richard Chudacoff's career was ruined when he was suspended three years ago from University Medical Center on allegations he provided inadequate care to patients, his attorney told Clark County officials Tuesday.

The County Commission paid Chudacoff $65,000 on Tuesday as mandated. In June, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the hospital violated his due process rights. Chudacoff sued the hospital in 2008. The settlement covers the costs associated with his appeal.

Clark County District Court is considering a request for county officials to pay another $433,000 in Chudacoff's legal fees for the rest of the case.

The commission went into an hourlong closed session Tuesday to discuss ongoing litigation, which included the Chudacoff agenda item. The item had not been not scheduled for a closed-door discussion, with which Chudacoff's attorney, Jacob Hafter, took issue.

When county officials re-emerged, Hafter took the commission to task for what he said was a violation of the state's open meeting law when it went into closed session to deliberate over approval of the $65,000. Hafter said the only acceptable reason for going into closed session would be to receive information about ongoing litigation connected to that money.

"We'll deal with that accordingly," Hafter told the board.

After the meeting, Hafter filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief on behalf of Chudacoff in District Court regarding the alleged open meeting law violation. If Hafter wins, all of his attorney fees would be paid by the county.

"It was completely inappropriate," Hafter said. "They went into hiding."

The commission did not give details about what it discussed behind closed doors regarding Chudacoff's case and voted unanimously to approve the item in open session.

"I can tell you after fighting this matter for three and a half years, you've destroyed this doctor's career," Hafter said.

In 2008, Dr. John Ellerton, then-UMC chief of staff, told Chudacoff his medical privileges had been suspended because of disruptive behavior and four surgery complications within four months.

The decision was made by the hospital's Medical Executive Committee. The suspension was reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which releases information related to the professional competence and conduct of physicians, dentists and other health care professionals.

Colleagues stopped talking to him, and job offers were rescinded nationwide because of the suspension and its reporting to the data bank, Chudacoff said.

In its report to the data bank, UMC officials said Chudacoff's clinical privileges were suspended because he provided substandard or inadequate care and displayed substandard or inadequate skills.

Chudacoff said his suspension came without warning, and he was never given a chance to respond to the charges . He alleged UMC's actions were in retaliation for an email he sent to the chairman of the University of Nevada School of Medicine's obstetrics and gynecology department highlighting "weaknesses in the training of residents at UMC."

A federal jury recently awarded anesthesiologist Charles Williams $8.8 million in a case against UMC and Ellerton for denying his privileges without giving him adequate notice of the allegations. Williams accepted $6.5 million to avoid an appeal.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at or 455-4519.