Science has several gray areas and people like Gary Ordog, who claim to be medical experts use this to their advantage. Having being trained in emergency medicine, he used the first 17 years of his career to patch up knife and gunshot wounds at the Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center in Compton, Los Angeles. That is only till he found something better and far more lucrative ‘mold.’ Today he earns $9,800 up front for his appears as an expert witness in lawsuits. All he does is testify that mold can cause a terrifying list of diseases starting from lung cancer to cirrhosis of the liver and so on.
Ordog, a burly British Columbia native says that mold plays a devastating role in his patients’ lives and that it destroys not only their homes and possessions but also their health. He states that he has treated thousands of people for mold exposure at his clinic that is located in a strip mall in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles Though these claims are not backed by The American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine and the federal Institute of Medicine stating there is no evidence to prove that. Paul Wax, a practicing toxicologist in Phoenix and the vice president of the American College of Medical Toxicology concurs that mold exposure does not cause serious diseases.
The American College of Medical Toxicology is Ordog’s own professional association, but even its believes hasn’t stopped Ordog from serving as an expert witness in several hundreds of lawsuits by people claiming that they were injured by mold and mycotoxins. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly $3 billion were paid out in 2002 for mold claims alone. In response to this growing mold claim epidemic, most states have passed laws that allow insurance companies to exclude mold from coverage. The plaintiff lawyers are still busy with mold cases, as they are now targeting landlords, condominium associations and school districts in place of insurance companies.
Mold does cause asthma, sinusitis and other breathing problems but Ordog is telling a different story. He claims that serious conditions–such as cancer, immune-system disorders and memory loss have been associated to specific mycotoxins found in mold. All they do is a search for these mycotoxins in a plaintiff’s home, workplace or school and if they find any trace of it they have hit a jackpot. Unfortunately, there are no reliable tests linking a person’s exposed to a specific mold or mycotoxin and how much of it he has absorbed.
Mold is the new face of the tort cases and has pushed silicone breast implant cases, welding fumes or chromium contamination far behind. It also gave a rise to experts like David Straus, a researcher at Texas Tech University’s medical school, Texas mold expert Andrew Campbell and our very own Gary Ordog.
Nearly half of the 30 mold lawsuits claiming personal injury that went to a verdict in the U.S. were won by the defense. But once you get an expert like Ordog support the plaintiffs claim the chances of getting a lucrative settlement increases drastically.
California couple win a $2.4 million settlement in 2003 over the death of their infant son from pulmonary hemorrhage linked to Stachybotrys chartarum, or “black mold. All thanks to expert testimony of Ordog.
A defense lawyer once estimated that Ordog’s annual take from expert witness fees and his busy toxicology clinic at more than $3 million. But Ordog just said he wished but has confirmed that he earns more than $10,000 a day for testimony and travel time. Several defense attorneys are of the opinion that Ordog shouldn’t be allowed to testify and the state of California sought to revoke his license in 2003, claiming that he misdiagnosed several patients as having toxic poisoning. Though Ordog states that that his license was renewed last year and there was no hearing
But Ordog does get into his share of trouble, once a California judge told Ordog lacks credibility after he testified that he was chief toxicologist at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Santa Clarita. Surprisingly the hospital has no such department. Among Ordog’s many claims are that he’d published “hundreds” of scholarly articles but a simple search of PubMed database reveals that there are less than 70 and almost all of them handling gunshot wounds and trauma. He has also spun yarn that the former President Bill Clinton wanted him to personally run a special mold commission for the Environmental Protection Agency, while EPA doesn’t cover air.
James Robie, a defense lawyer with Robie & Matthai in Los Angeles added that Ordog was abusing the system and amongst the most dishonest person he ever met.
Ordog claimed that he was a victim of a smear campaign. He adds the state wants to revoke his license as a payback from Alcoa case where his testimony helped secure a multimillion-dollar verdict against it. Ordog insists that there is overwhelming evidence and cites 28,000 articles supporting the idea that mycotoxins can cause disease. A simple PubMed search reveals that 28,540 articles containing the word “mycotoxin,” but none proving that mold cause anything more than asthma and similar breathing difficulties.
Ordog is just one among the several mold experts including Andrew Campbell’s medical license who suffer from credibility issues. Lawyers are now changing tactics though, for example Steven Goldman, a lawyer in New York City, who fights for people who believe mold made them sick but deliberately avoids using the word “mold,” but instead calls it “dangerous and hazardous conditions.” He them lets his experts pursue other theories of disease linked to the same underlying complaint about neglected water leaks.
Things started going south for Ordog very soon, though it was not caused by mold. he was indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts of health care fraud for scamming Medicare to the tune of $2.5 million over six years.
He billed Medicare in the tune of $6.5 million for services he had not rendered to Medicare patients, and he even billed decease patients between January 2009 to February 2015.
According to the indictment, Ordog would examine a patient and then submit false claims to Medicare for reimbursement several years later. The patients came to him through several referrals and were supposedly suffering from illnesses associated from exposure to mold and similar toxic substances. Several of the bills that were submitted as claims were for patients who died after the claims were submitted.
This isn’t Ordog’s first dishonest act, his medical license was suspended for 90 days back in 2006 and he was placed on seven years of probation on charges of gross negligence and dishonesty. There was also a stipulation that prohibiting him from serving as a medical expert witness or medical consultant for legal matters.
Later in September 2013, his seven-year probation was extended to another 18 months. California Medical Board spokeswoman Cassandra Hockenson added that he would completed his probation in March this year. On March 27, a federal grand jury indicted Ordog and was to be unsealed later.