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Former Zimmer Biomet Sales Rep Alleges Wrongful Termination for Reporting Physician Misconduct

A former sales representative for the medical device manufacturing company Zimmer Biomet (“Zimmer”) has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that the orthopedics provider fired him as a result of the testimony he provided during a grand jury hearing against a physician who was accused of performing unnecessary knee replacement procedures. Further catapulting this story into the public eye is the fact that the sales representative, named Dominick Pistone, is the brother of Joseph Pistone, an FBI agent who served as the basis for the movie Donnie Brasco.

As a sales representative, Pistone sold Zimmer products for 25 years until the company terminated his employment in June 2015. The lawsuit also alleges that some time in 2007, Pistone learned that a physician who has not been identified by name was “performing numerous double knee replacements, well above the average . . .  primarily for financial gain and not in the best interest of the patients.”

Additionally, the complaint states that the device the unnamed doctor used in these procedures was not subject to FDA approval. The CEO of the company that formally manufactured the device, OtisMed, was sent to prison for two years, and the company was required to pay an $80 million settlement to Stryker, which had acquired OtisMed during 2009.

At the advice of his FBI agent brother, Pistone reported the unnecessary knee replacement surgeries to the FBI and called the Zimmer whistleblower hotline. This hotline was created during 2007 as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, stemming from allegations that Zimmer was engaging in off-label marketing of its products. According to the complaint, Zimmer did not follow up with the information that Pistone provided during this call. The unnamed doctor joined a new practice and continued to perform the unnecessary knee replacement surgeries.

Pistone sent a number of anonymous letters to a variety of district attorneys in Pennsylvania and a newspaper, but there were no responses or follow-ups. During March 2015, one of the district attorneys subpoenaed Pistone to testify in a grand jury hearing about alleged misconduct involving the unnamed doctor. Shortly thereafter, Pistone received a letter from the CEO of the company for which the unnamed doctor worked, threatening to sue Zimmer for the letters that Pistone had sent describing the allegedly improper surgeries.

On June 15, 2015, Pistone was terminated from his sales representative role with Zimmer. The company stated that he had a diminished capacity and provided him with a $200,000 severance package, including a clawback option in the event it was proven that Pistone violated Zimmer’s rules related to employee conduct. The complaint seeks $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages from Zimmer.

If you have suffered injuries as the result of a dangerous medical device, the skilled Biomet lawyers at Moll Law Group are prepared to assist you with investigating, filing, and litigating your claim. We proudly serve clients throughout the United States, including in New York, Illinois, Florida, and Texas. Understanding the complexities of navigating the judicial system or comprehending the medical science behind a particular device, disease, or condition can be difficult. We offer a free consultation either in person or over the phone to help you identify the legal remedies that may be available to you. Call us now at 412-362-1700 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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