San Diego Chargers’ Doc Nailed Again for Malpractice

Dr. David Chao, the head physician for the San Diego Chargers, lost a $7.5 million medical malpractice suit in August based on his prescription of a faulty cold-therapy medical device to a knee surgery patient.

Chao operated on Whitney Engler’s knee in 2003 and then directed her to use the Polar Care 500. After she developed frostbite on her knee and suffered permanent damage, she sued Chao, his medical practice, and Breg, Inc. – the manufacturer of the device.


Common Knee Surgery Treatment

Engler alleged negligence, medical malpractice, and product liability. A San Diego jury awarded her $5.2 million in compensatory damages to cover her economic losses, and later, $7.5. million in punitive damages, of which Chao must pay $500,000 and Berg, $7 million.

Products like the Polar Care 500 are commonly used after knee surgery. This device operated with a cooler for ice water, a pump and hose, and a wrap-on pad. According to one online seller, Breg has discontinued the product. It appears to have been replaced with the Polar Care Glacier.

The 500 had been involved in another case against Chao, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. That case settled in 2002. He was also sued for malpractice over a botched hip surgery in 2008, which resulted in a $2.2 million arbitration award, according to Jonathan Turley’s blog


Troubles Pile Up for Chargers’ Doc

And if that isn’t enough, Chao was reprimanded in May for lying on an application to the California state medical board, according to the San Diego UT. He failed to disclose a 2007 conviction for drunk driving on forms he filled out to apply for a license as a medical evaluator for worker’s comp cases.

Professor Jonathan Turley headshot

Professor Jonathan Turley

That case is under judicial review, according to a newsletter published by the Medical Board of California this fall. In July, the board filed formal charges against him based on complaints by three patients who suffered neurological damage, according to a local NBC news station.

He was also reportedly investigated in 2011 for charges linked to his former medical partner’s prescription drug abuse. 

Chao is allowed to continue practicing medicine and still lists himself as the head team physician for the San Diego Chargers with the OASIS group in their orthopedic sports surgery practice. The team continues to decline to comment. 

“It is astonishing that he has secured so many high-profile clients with this record,” said Turley of Chao. “Lawyers, including myself, have long objected that malpractice among doctors is committed by a relatively small percentage of doctors who drive up insurance rates and cause continuing harm.”

“Chao seems to have led a charmed life as a celebrity doctor and less than a charmed life as an actual physician,” concludes Turley.

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