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Surgeon pays $800,000, settles slander case

Las Vegas surgeon Mark Kabins, who recently was convicted of a felony in federal court, has agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a slander lawsuit filed against him by an anesthesiologist.

“There were absolutely no admissions made as part of the settlement, and it was another vehicle to give Dr. Kabins closure,” said attorney David Chesnoff, who represents the surgeon.

Chesnoff also said federal prosecutors requested, as part of Kabins’ plea agreement in the criminal case, that he also settle the civil case.

Dr. Daniel Burkhead filed the lawsuit against Kabins and others with ties to a federal fraud case. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of making “false and defamatory statements concerning Burkhead’s ability to competently practice medicine.”

“If Burkhead continues to lose patients and referrals due to defendants’ false and defamatory statements, his right to practice medicine and his medical practice will be destroyed,” the document alleges.

Attorney Brooke Bohlke, who represents Burkhead, said other parties had until Thursday to object to the settlement but did not do so. She said the lawsuit is proceeding against another surgeon, John Thalgott; a former medical consultant, Howard Awand; and a medical expert from Louisiana, Charlie Aprill.

The allegations in both the civil and criminal cases stem from the treatment of Melodie Simon, who became a para­plegic after Kabins and Thalgott performed spine surgery on her in August 2000.

Awand became the first defendant in the criminal case three years ago, when a federal grand jury indicted him. Awand is scheduled to change his plea in the fraud case on Monday.

The original indictment against Awand claimed he conspired for two years with unidentified attorneys and health care providers to inflate personal injury settlements and judgments “to the detriment of the best interests of the clients they were hired to represent and serve.”

According to the indictment, Awand “directed excessive and aggressive medical care of clients, promised and paid kickbacks to others, and promised and provided protection from malpractice lawsuits to health care providers,” while concealing those activities from clients.

Criminal charges later were added against personal injury attorney Noel Gage and Kabins.

In November, Kabins pleaded guilty to “misprision of felony.” The charge involves a failure to report the criminal activity of others.

According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden after Kabins entered his plea, the surgeon “acknowledged that he used Awand to corruptly influence Gage not to sue him, and that he concealed the crime that Awand and Gage thereafter committed.”

Gage represented Simon in her medical malpractice case. Rather than sue Kabins or Thalgott, the lawyer sued Burkhead.

The malpractice case settled for $2.3 million, but prosecutors argued it was worth much more. After attorney fees and costs were deducted, Simon received $1.3 million. Kabins’ plea agreement, which allowed him to avoid prison time, requires him to pay her another $3.5 million.

Gage resolved his criminal case last month by pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. He entered a type of guilty plea that required him to admit only that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

Thalgott was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony in the fraud case.

Around 2001, according to Burkhead’s lawsuit, Awand organized a meeting between Gage, Thalgott and Kabins, “wherein it was agreed and decided that the four would blame Burkhead for the malpractice.”

The slander lawsuit claims Thalgott arranged for Aprill, a friend, “to act as a medical expert in the Simon case and to likewise blame Burkhead for the malpractice.”

In May 2002, according to the slander lawsuit, Thalgott and Kabins both testified during depositions and blamed Burkhead for the malpractice.

Thalgott testified in the fraud case in February 2008 and admitted that he had lied during the earlier deposition in the malpractice case.

Aprill also testified in the fraud case and “admitted that Burkhead’s conduct did not violate the standard of care, contrary to the affidavit that he previously supplied in the Simon malpractice lawsuit,” according to the slander complaint.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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