US lawsuit targets medical tourist doctors in Mexico

Multi-million dollar class action lawsuit in Arizona seeks damages from doctors in Mexico and agents in Arizona for fraud and negligence. The publicity is already uncovering several years of problems for Americans going to Mexico for cheap surgery.

Tijuana, the largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California, is a popular destination for American medical tourists, mostly seeking low cost cosmetic surgery, weight loss treatment and dental care.

According to his website: “Dr. Mario Almanza is the leading gastric sleeve surgeon in the world, and has performed more gastric sleeve procedures than any other surgeon in the world. Trust experience and get your weight loss surgery performed by Dr. Mario Almanza.”

Not all his patients have been happy with the experience however. A 2015 television investigation by the San Diego television channel Team 10 claimed that after gastric surgery at the clinic, four Americans had died, and a dozen others had been injured.

Robert Gregory of the Gregory Law Group in Arizona focuses almost entirely on representing plaintiffs in medical negligence and wrongful death cases. Over the last 20 years, the firm has represented hundreds of people injured due to medical negligence by physicians, nurses, and other medical providers.

On April 3, 2018, the Gregory Law Group filed a class action lawsuit in Arizona State court on behalf of hundreds of people from Arizona who have had lap band or gastric sleeve surgery in Tijuana, Mexico. The lawsuit seeks damages against the doctors in Mexico who did the surgeries, and against persons and businesses in Arizona who arranged for these surgeries.

The lawsuit accuses Dr. Almanza and 20 Arizona based medical companies, individuals, and medical travel agents of fraud, negligent misrepresentation and negligent supervision.  Among the businesses sued is Fill Centers USA, a medical group with 40 branches nationwide.  The group helps to care for patients after they return from surgery in Mexico.

The court documents allege that a named medical travel agent used high-pressure sales tactics on customers looking to lose weight and recommended doctors, including Almanza. The agent recruited over 300 people, escorted them to Mexico, allegedly used resources of the school she worked at to transmit HIPPA-protected medical documents, and started a business making professional referrals. The lawyers have many documents on which they base their allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation with failure to warn of complications or medical risks.

Robert Gregory is representing several Arizona patients in the multi-million dollar class-action suit, and believes the lawsuit could expand nationwide. He has identified potential unhappy customers in New Mexico, Florida, Washington and California. Other related lawsuits have already been started.

Attempts by customers and investigating television stations to get Mexican authorities to act have failed. Almanza claims that a Mexican government investigation into allegations of botched surgeries came to nothing.

Responding to media interviews, Almanza claimed a disgruntled employee who sought to ruin his reputation bribed unhappy patients.

Many complaints have been made about overseas surgery and investigations by various US authorities. This is the first case from a high-powered medical negligence specialist with a track record in recovering damages from medical businesses. Whether anything can be done in Mexico has legal complexity, the key here is that most of the businesses and individuals are within Arizona.

This legal action and subsequent publicity is already uncovering several years of problems for Americans going to Mexico for cheap surgery, so the story is only beginning.