Spillane Trial Group has obtained a defense jury verdict for Dr. Li Sheng Kong and his medical corporation, LSK Enterprises, Inc., against cross-complaints for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with West Coast Vascular, a vascular surgery practice in the Ventura-Santa Barbara community.

Two of the WCV partners accused the senior partner of performing surgeries not indicated by the patient’s condition, a violation of the False Claims Act.  Dr. Kong initially voted to expel the accused partner from the practice.  Then, feeling he had been unduly pressured, and suspicious of partisan motivations for, and the medical methodology underlying, the accusation, he rescinded his vote to expel the partner.  In the hailstorm of ensuing litigation, he faced a cross-complaint for breach of fiduciary duty for bringing the accused partner back into the practice.

The case culminated in a six-week jury trial in Ventura County. 

In pretrial vetting, we did not think making our case about medicine was the winning tactic.  While Dr. Kong criticized the study that had been done of the senior partner’s surgeries, he disagreed with that partner’s decision to engage in surgery in a few cases.  Rather, we had better success making the case about the duties of care, truth and fairness owed by partners.

The jury endured days of dense testimony from not only the doctors, but several experts, about our circulatory systems and the symptoms warranting surgery, versus non-interventional tactics including improvements in diet, smoking and exercise.

We sidestepped the medicine, letting the accused doctor defend his actions.  Instead, we relied upon targeted cross-examination featuring emails and texts in which, unknown to Dr. Kong, the accusers discussed expelling the accused doctor before conducting their study, talked about making millions as “whistleblowers,” discussed buying the assets of the partners at a “fire sale” and, before the meeting to urge expulsion of the senior partner, limiting the information provided to Dr. Kong to “deny [him] wiggle room.” 

In closing, we told the jury that, think what they would about the medicine, Dr. Kong had not been treated with honesty and fairness, that his vote to expel the senior partner was procured through nondisclosures, and that the right thing to do would have been to sit down with the accused partner, discuss the accusations with full disclosure and attempt to work out a solution.

The jury agreed, rendering a verdict in favor of Dr. Kong and his corporation on the cross-complaint for breach of fiduciary duty and contract. 

In a post-trial chat in the hallway, the jurors confirmed that our targeted use of the communications showing that the accusers had not acted as true partners had been effective.

This case, the longest jury trial we have conducted, confirmed our core belief that identifying and articulating the core theme underlying our client’s case, a theme on which we focus in opening, testimony and closing, is a winning tactic.

We are proud of our verdicts for Plaintiffs and Defendants.  We appear at the outset of an action, and at the eleventh hour for trial.