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Local News

Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Doctor’s Antitrust Case

Dr. Alan Moelleken claims Cottage Health System and other surgeons conspired to keep him off an on-call list

After six weeks of testimony, attorneys made closing statements this week in the antitrust civil case brought against Cottage Health System and Neurosurgical Associates of Santa Barbara by spinal surgeon Dr. Alan Moelleken.

Moelleken alleges that Cottage and the three doctors who formed Neurosurgical Associates conspired to keep him off an on-call list for emergency room and trauma center patients, therefore stifling competition and causing him about $5 million in damages over a period of several years.

He has been “consistently, repetitively denied” access, he testified in March, accusing Cottage Health System of “using its leverage as the only hospital in town to do what is not right.”

His attorney, David Kesselman of antitrust firm Blecher & Collins, has argued that the neurosurgeons on Cottage’s on-call list — Drs. Thomas Jones, Scott Conner and Richard Chung — threatened to pull their own services if the list included an orthopedic surgeon such as Dr. Moelleken, thereby influencing the hospital’s decision.

Defense attorneys Jeffery LeVee and Barry Cappello represent Cottage and the three doctors, respectively, and told a different story Wednesday.

There is no conspiracy, LeVee argued, because all testimony denied there was an influence from the hospital’s administration or neurosurgeons on the Medical Executive Committee task force that created the application process for the on-call list.

Doctors testified that there was no concern that Jones would withhold services from the trauma center or emergency department if Moelleken was included on a spine call list, LeVee added.

In cross-examining Moelleken in March, LeVee and Cappello made a point of detailing how well the surgeon is doing financially. Moelleken owns OSF Medical Group of California, which includes six patient-care centers in California, including the local Spine & Orthopedics Center and Santa Barbara Family Practice.

He also owns the Carrillo Surgery Center at 401 E. Carrillo St., an ambulatory surgery center with two operating rooms, and has 100 employees between the two entities.

He testified that his personal taxable income is about $1.3 million per year.

Moelleken doesn’t have access to emergency room or trauma center patients, but LeVee argues that it’s a small piece of the total market for spinal surgical patients.

The jury is set to begin deliberations this week.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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