The lawyer who a decade ago sued Hudson spinal surgeon Alfred O. Bonati for millions is back with a new client and more allegations of medical malpractice and fraud.
In 1996, West Palm Beach lawyer Gary Roberts won a $3.5-million judgment against Bonati, his fellow doctors and his Hudson medical practices.
A Hernando County woman told the jury that Bonati and his clinics performed unnecessary and risky surgeries in a scheme to collect insurance money.
The jury found against Bonati, but the doctor declared bankruptcy during the trial. The jury's $3.5-million verdict was overtured by a U.S. magistrate who said it was "grossly excessive and without support in the evidence."
That complaint and a number of other malpractice claims against Bonati ended in 2001. Plaintiffs shared in an $8-million court settlement that allowed Bonati and his practices to emerge from bankruptcy. The doctor admitted no liability.
Then in 2002 the doctor ended his troubles with state regulators, too, reaching a deal with the Florida Board of Medicine that let him continue to practice under the supervision of another surgeon.
That ended in 2005, and the Florida Health Department said the doctor has fulfilled all his obligations to the state.
There have been a number of lawsuits against the Hudson surgeon, but the Bonati Institute for Advanced Arthroscopic Surgery's Web site is filled with testimonials praising his care. His site says the "Bonati Procedures" use endoscopic and arthroscopic laser surgery to treat the spine.
Those techniques, however, came under fire again in Roberts' latest suit, filed Aug. 8 on behalf of former patient Michael L. Thompson of Michigan.
The latest suit is 84 pages long and says that in 2004 Thompson sought relief from neck pain from the Bonati Institute.
The result was six surgeries - three within 13 days - and five pain management procedures from April 6 to Aug. 12, 2004, according to the suit.
But Roberts told the Times his client wasn't cured. Instead, Thompson has been "permanently, totally disabled. ... It aggravated old conditions and created new conditions," the lawyer said.
According to the lawsuit, "Bonati and the other defendant physicians and participants, intentionally or negligently exaggerated or misdiagnosed Michael L. Thompson's pathology in order to attempt to justify a course of expensive and aggressive surgical treatment and other new surgical care which was not medically indicated."
And as alleged in earlier cases, the plaintiff and his insurance company "was forced to pay ... for the unnecessary, unreasonable and excessively charged medical and surgical care and treatment rendered or caused by the defendants."
Bonati's marketing director, George Thorry, said his organization was still trying to make sense of the complaint and had no comment at this time.
In 1992 Bonati sued the St. Petersburg Times, contending that an article and editorial maliciously discredited him, costing him patients and money. The suit was dismissed on technical grounds in 1997.
The last time Bonati made headlines was in 2004, when he brought his practice back to Hudson from Port St. Joe. He also sued former employees who his lawyer told the Times had "embarked upon a conspiracy to unlawfully compete." The suit was dismissed that year, court records show.
Bonati is currently licensed to practice medicine in Florida, reports the state Health Department. There are no records of pending public complaints against him, the agency said.