Lawsuit: Michels Strong-Armed Avera to Hire Bad Surgeon Sossan for Profit

A lawsuit filed Friday in federal court implicates Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels, in his role as lawyer for Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, in medical malpractice that led to the death of Frances Bockholt. The lawsuit also seeks to overturn the South Dakota medical peer review laws that kept secret the malpractice of orthopedic surgeon Allen A. Sossan.

Frances Bockholt
Frances Bockholt, deceased, victim of Allen Sossan unnecessary surgeries

Five children of Frances Bockholt are suing Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Lewis & Clark Specialty Hospital, Dr. Soosan (a.k.a. Alan Abdali Soosan), Dr. Don Swift, Dr. Kynan Trial, attorney Michels, and members of the medical executive and peer review committees of Avera and Lewis & Clark. Sossan/Soosan’s malpractice—unnecessary surgeries that contributed to Bockholt’s death in 2011—and his disruptive, violent behavior in the workplace have been documented in the press and established in court.

This new lawsuit alleges that Avera initially refused to give Sossan privileges to perform surgery at the Yankton hospital. Enter Matt Michels:

89. After the Avera Sacred Heart Medical Executive Committee (“MEC”) initially opposed extending Soosan privileges, Defendant Matthew Michels then intervened, acting on his own initiative and at the behest of the administrations of Avera Health and Avera Sacred Heart Health Services.

Matt Michels, named in lawsuit over Frances Bockholt's death
Matt Michels, named in lawsuit over Frances Bockholt’s death

90. Defendant Michels misled the MEC. Michels falsely advised the MEC that there was insufficient justification to deny Soosan privileges. Defendant Michels further misled the MEC by arguing that failure to vote to extend privileges to Soosan would result in a successful lawsuit by Soosan against the MEC and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.

91. Defendant Michels knew or should have known that overwhelming evidence existed to deny Soosan privileges.

92. Defendant Michels also knew that other hospitals had refused to extend Soosan privileges without being subject to a lawsuit.

93. Defendant Michels knew that Faith Regional Hospital forced Soosan out without being subject to a lawsuit.

94. In fact, Michels knew Soosan released Avera Sacred Heart Hospital from liability for “acts performed in good faith and without malice in connection with the gathering and release and exchange of information … in addition to any other applicable immunities provided by law for peer review activities.”

95. Nonetheless, Defendant Michels misled the MEC about the threat of a lawsuit to induce the MEC to change its position regarding Soosan and continued to withhold relevant and accurate information from the MEC during Soosan’s tenure [Bockholt et al. v. Sacred Heart et al., Civ 15-4106, complaint, U.S. District Court of South Dakota, filed 2015.06.05].

Why would Michels mislead his hospital’s medical executive board to employ a doctor with such a terrible record? Money. The plaintiffs allege that Avera Sacred Heart was losing money and brought Dr. Sossan on board because his specialty, spine surgery, offers big profits. Michels, the suit contends, “fraudulently induced the MEC into changing its position in order to improve the financial position of Avera Sacred Heart….”

Former Lewis & Clark Hospital CEO Michelle Weidner-Jordan has made similar allegations of capitalism over patient care against her former employer. Weidner-Jordan blamed and canned her for the drop in profits that took place after Sossan was forced to leave in 2012.

The Bockholt plaintiffs would have a much easier time proving their case if they could access the peer review proceedings that led the two Yankton hospitals to admit Sossan to practice and led the state to license him. However, state law keeps such evidence secret from everyone except doctors defending themselves in court or checking into the decisions relating to their employment:

Proceedings of peer review committees confidential and privileged–Availability to physician subject of proceedings. The proceedings, records, reports, statements, minutes, or any other data whatsoever, of any committee described in § 36-4-42, relating to peer review activities defined in § 36-4-43, are not subject to discovery or disclosure under chapter 15-6 or any other provision of law, and are not admissible as evidence in any action of any kind in any court or arbitration forum, except as hereinafter provided. No person in attendance at any meeting of any committee described in § 36-4-42 is required to testify as to what transpired at such meeting. The prohibition relating to discovery of evidence does not apply to deny a physician access to or use of information upon which a decision regarding the person’s staff privileges or employment was based. The prohibition relating to discovery of evidence does not apply to deny any person or the person’s counsel in the defense of an action against that person access to the materials covered under this section [SDCL 36-4-26.1].

In addition to damages, the Bockholt plaintiffs ask the court to overturn this statute and others related to the peer review process as violations of the rights to a jury trial and due process.

*   *   *

In other legal notes, the Bockholt complaint contends that Michels and the other “employees, members, shareholders and agents” of Avera and Lewis & Clark are subject to the Hippocratic Oath. I’m not sure that Michels has ever actively recited those words or signed an employment document saying, “Yup, I’ll follow Hippocrates, too,” but I’d be curious to know if courts have previously taken the position that anyone working for or overseeing a hospital is subject to the oath. As we all know, oaths matter.

The complaint also lays out Sossan/Soosan’s sordid history. Before he became a doctor, Alan Abdali Soosan was convicted in 1982 of five counts of forgery, one count of issuing a forged check, and one count of grand theft. In 1983, he was convicted of felony burglary for stealing answers to a biology test at St. Petersburg Junior College. Soosan then took to spelling his name differently, as “Allen Sossan”, without ever legally changing his name. The complaint argues that Sossan/Soosan has thus been committing perjury in various lawsuits and applications for medical licenses in Nebraska, South Dakota, and elsewhere to hide his felony record.

The complaint goes on to discuss allegations that Sossan has falsified medical records, “maimed or mutilated” hundreds of patients with unnecessary surgery, threatened to kill a Yankton nurse anesthetist, and had sex with a medical device salesperson at work. All of those alleged crimes would have been prevented if medical boards and hospitals had held Sossan accountable for perjury and refused to trust him with patients.


27 Responses to Lawsuit: Michels Strong-Armed Avera to Hire Bad Surgeon Sossan for Profit

  1. I feel I must make an apology to myself. It never occurred to me that the now pay for hire lt. governor was such a crook and a liar. I should have known that if he were involved with Daugaard and his predecessor, the capo Mike Rounds, he would be up to his mustache in the corrupted sewage that we South Dakotan’s accept as the smell of roses. What a piece of work. The doctor as well sounds like a true right wing operator with threats, corruption and sex issues. What is it with these right wing goof balls and their kinky sex habits?

    Jackley better brush up on his gang bonafides as there is a new contender in the ring for the leader of the corrupt wing of the junta in Pierre. Thrills and spills and hospital bills, the mustache versus the burr head in a cage fight, bring the popcorn.

  2. Welcome to South Dakota, a safe harbor to crooks as long as you’ve got the money and the connections!

  3. Anybody seen this in the Sanford Leader yet? I thought they were all over this story, and very significant allegations against the Lt. Governor is pretty big news, or am I missing something here?

  4. Jerry, I don’t think there’s a political angle to the actions of Dr. Sossan/Soosan himself. He sounds much more like a Bosworth, a doctor convinced of his own immunity to moral obligations and committed to using his patients for his own gain.

  5. Roger Cornelius

    Soosan, really? As in SooSan Drive Sioux San Indian hospital in Rapid City?

  6. Why DO they spell the name of that street wrong, Mr. C? I have always befuddled about that. One of our better connected bloggers should get the city council to fix that.

  7. Roger Cornelius

    Not for certain Grudz’s, Soo San does sound kind of slangy and lacks respect.

  8. Roger, interesting coincidence! But no relation: Alan Abdali Soosan was born in Iran in 1967.

  9. First, Bosworth now Soosan/Sossan – does not give one faith in the SD medical profession to self-police. One must ask whether the SD medical review board itself is competent. These are not “honest differences of opinion” from best practice norms or “industry standards”; they are grave problems turning Hippocrates on his head. Yep, it’s past time to “open up” the SD medical review board to “poke around in there to see what’s going on”.

  10. The Bockholt lawsuit is just one of several seeking to open up the medical board by declaring peer-review confidentiality unconstitutional. The current system of confidentiality keeps us from knowing whether Bosworth and Soosan are only glaring exceptions to the rule of an otherwise well-self-policed system or exemplars of more widespread malpractice.

  11. The complaint (lawsuit) is only one side of a story. I would urge everyone to withhold judgement until all the facts are known.

    Matt Michels is a dedicated public servant. He has been a leader, as well as a resident, in the Yankton community for years. It is ridiculous to think he would put himself, his family or his fellow residents at risk for financial gain.

  12. Apparently the Sanford Leader hacks think this is a story a week late … or maybe not. It was put on Ellis’ blog tonight, but we’ll see if it stands the real test and is put in the pages of the Sanford Leader tomorrow. I’m betting the Pierre protectionists won’t do that. More money in sucking up to the power clique.

  13. Mr. Allender, I am certain you have staff people who monitor these bloggings ALLENDER for places your name appears. Would you please put it on your list of fixes to make new street signs that spell Sioux San correctly? I understand not spelling out Sanitorium in its full word but let us at least not mock with words like “soo”. My goodness, sir.

  14. What building in Yankton is Michels a resident of Tom? This lack of judgement sounds to me like he may have have some issues.

  15. Jerry,

    I believe it is common knowledge that Matt Michels represented Yankton for several terms in the state legislature and he is a long-time resident of Yankton. He has been involved in a lot of civic and charitable activities in the Yankton community.

    My point is that I do not believe Matt Michels would ever put his neighbors or his own family at risk for a hospital’s financial gain. The lawsuit makes some serious allegations. We have not heard from Matt or any of the defendants for that matter. It is only fair to wait to hear all the facts before reaching a final conclusion. Matt Michels has earned a reputation for being an honorable man and he deserves the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

  16. Today’s Sanford Leader, page 2, second story down on the right side, you will find the story in yesterday’s Ellis blog.

    As to Tom’s point, it is fine to reserve judgment about Daugaard’s lt. governor as a citizen deserving justice. But if we’ve learned anything from the past two years it’s none of the power clique in Pierre can be trusted or believed. They are all in a different category as a protected class. And if you’re waiting on the top law officials to lower the boom on one of the players, forget about it. It truly is the reputation they all deserve.

    So are they all, all honorable men.

  17. mike from iowa

    Tom,how does one get all the fact from a one party state? South Dakota’s gubmint seems to be layer after layer of ass-covering windbags.

  18. Mike,

    I believe sites such as Dakota Free Press and the media are very important to ensuring residents get all the facts. It is even more important when one party dominates the state. There are many Republicans that agree that we need careful oversight and controls of state government. We will get the best results when we scrutinize public officials in a fair and honest way. It is hard to get good people interested in public service if they will be judged before all the facts are known.

    The Sossan matter is very serious and it has wide-ranging implications for healthcare in South Dakota. Innocent people have been injured by this man. There should be a full investigation and those that were injured should, and will, have their day in court.

  19. I have filed a complaint about a doctor who deceived me by omission! Since I didn’t know what he was going to do, he did not even have INFORMED consent. But the complaint was “investigated and closed”! After I filed the original complaint,the only response I got was acknowledgment of receipt and the above statement in a follow-up weeks later.
    I have good reason to believe that Michel had connections with this particular doctor as well! Letting the fox guard the henhouse has never been a good idea but that’s what South Dakota doctors are allowed to do! One more reason South Dakota is one of the most corrupt states in the union! Time for big changes in SD government!

  20. Tom, you are clueless when it comes to South Dakota politics, better known as South Dakota corruption. You may sit in the amen corner with Michels but that does not change the fact that he got where he is by being a con man and a crook. Take a look at Pierre and tell me differently. The best thing Pierre has going is that they all congregate there like crows on a rotting carcass. Your man Michels fits the bill for just another corrupted politico that feels entitled to feeding off other peoples misery and their funds while choosing to be compensated by taxpayers for doing nothing. Dude has no class.

  21. Jerry,

    I am sorry you have such a pessimistic view of South Dakota government. State government could always be better but I do not share your opinion that it is filled with crooks and con men. Public service is a sacrifice, just ask any Democrat or Republican that has held office. Accusing public officials of being criminals without any basis in fact does not make our state government any better.


  22. Tom obviously is fully unaware of the Rounds Racketeering Scam, a.k.a., EB-5 scandal, and the complicity of the Attorney General, the Governor, the GOED, the S.D. Board of Regents, Mike Rounds’ political appointees and the not-so-secret but protected illegal bank run by one Joop Bollen. It started, Tom, with the shooting death of Rounds’ GOED director, the cover-up of the official death report by the AG who ruled it a suicide and then backed away from making a ruling, the AG’s declaration several months later that the deceased GOED head was being charged with felonies for theft, millions being fleeced by the Rounds appointees who created their authority in a secret no-bid contract they signed, and the white-washing from state oversight authorities who refuse to allow further investigations.

    Tom, you’ve got a lot of reading to do. I like that you trust your friend Matt Michels but South Dakotans host the most ridiculously corrupt state government in our nation. True, nobody’s been convicted, but they demonstrated they are all working together to keep their gravy train rolling. Your pal is on that train and money is what controls him.

  23. You got that right, 96 tears! Tom needs to do a lot of research on this states political cliques!

  24. David Newquist

    Wnen Michels said Avera had no grounds for denying Sasson privileges is in contradiction to case law established in Aberdeen. When Avera St. Lukes found out that an orthopedic surgeon was involved in a physicians group that was setting up its own day surgery facility, it refused him privileges. He sued. The circuit court found in his favor on the grounds of the by-laws that the medical staff operates under. However, appeals and a state supreme court decision overruled the lower court saying the the hospital by-laws have precedent over the medical staff by-laws and that the hospital has the right to deny privileges based upon business reasons.

    Avera has adopted a closed staff policy, whereby it can provide or deny privileges. Sanford has open staff privileges which admit any candidate, but one presumes that those who have accrued complaints against their practice can be excluded for medical reasons, whether or not a licensing board has taken official action against them.

  25. Like all the rest of the corrupted regime in Pierre, Michels is probably criminally free from having to go the the hoosegow, but to pin a win against him for malfeasance, would make my day. I would dearly love to see mustache sweat dripping from this poor excuse for a barrister.
    As it looks like there will be but two insurance companies writing the ACA for 2016 in South Dakota, I am wondering how Avera can remain a closed staff policy provider Dr. Newquist. The only two left standing may have to change the way they do their business regarding access for insureds.

  26. Dang, David—that precedent would seem keenly relevant to the plaintiffs’ case against Michels.

  27. JudyMiller

    This quack operated on my daughter Cathy Miller,ruining her back for the rest of her life.He seemed to do more surgeries when he needed a Fancy new car.He put cadaver bone in her neck.When she had another operation in Omaha by a competent surgeon,he found a mess in her back.Screws were coming out,her neck now causes pain.Maybe someday he”ll have to go through this.Love you Cathy your mom Judy Miller