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$6 million settlement reached in lawsuit against popular Orange County plastic surgeon ‘Dr. Laguna'

The plastic surgeon known as “Dr. Laguna” has reached a multi-million dollar settlement with dozens of his former patients, and what happened to one of them is highlighted in a new accusation by the Medical Board.

It involves a patient the NBC4 I-Team interviewed in December 2022 about her surgery.

“It was the scariest experience of my life,” said the patient, who asked to be called Bobbi to protect her identity.

She saw plastic surgeon Arian Mowlavi, also known as Dr. Laguna, in 2019 for liposuction around her bra line. She said he convinced her she needed even more VASER liposuction on other parts of her body.

“Two weeks later, I woke up at UCI in their burn center,” said Bobbi.

On Jan. 25, the Medical Board of California filed a new accusation against Mowlavi. “Bobbi” is Patient A in the accusation. It details her condition 10 days after her plastic surgery as paramedics brought her to the hospital ”…in septic shock, with incipient respiratory, renal and liver failure…” where she needed “surgery to debride the necrotic skin.“

They had to take everything from my stomach area… wrapped around my back, so the whole area was open, and all the flesh had to be removed.

Bobbi, former patient of Arian Mowlavi

“They had to take everything from my stomach area, from like where a bikini top would start, all the way down to the bikini bottom area, wrapped around my back,” Bobbi explained. “So that whole area was open, and all the flesh had to be removed.”

Bobbi eventually joined more than two dozen other patients of Mowlavi in a civil lawsuit against him for battery, medical malpractice and more.

According to court documents, a confidential settlement was just reached in that case. Bankruptcy documents reveal Mowlavi’s insurance company is agreeing to pay $6 million to the 36 plaintiffs.

A different court filing reveals the patients and their attorneys are not allowed to comment on the settlement, and also had to agree to “refrain from posting any negative reviews or comments about the care rendered… in any public forum, social media or website” and “…to withdraw, take down or delete any prior disparaging comments.”

In 2021, the I-Team first interviewed the most vocal of Mowlavi’s former patients, social media influencer Chalene Johnson.

“Every time I look in the mirror, I see his work. I see what he subjected me to and it’s devastating,” Johnson said. “As a woman, it’s devastating.”

It wasn’t until three weeks after her surgery that she learned of a Medical Board accusation against Mowlavi involving the death of one of his patients in 2018.  It took the board three years to investigate and file their initial accusation.

“The surgeon whose life you’re placing your hands in, you have a right to know their history, their track record. You have a right to know if your decision is a safe one,” said Johnson. “Right now, surgeons are fully protected in the state of California, they know that they are above the law.”

The surgeon whose life you’re placing your hands in, you have a right to know their history, their track record. You have a right to know if your decision is a safe one.

Chalene Johnson, former patient of Arian Mowlavi

Her frustration with the Medical Board is echoed by one of its members, TJ Watkins, who sat down with the I-Team at the end of 2022.

“We preach public protection, but everything we do is doctor protection,” said Watkins.

Former Mowlavi patient Millie Martini agrees.

“I think the medical board needs to change,” said Martini. ” I’m a hairdresser and the state Board of Cosmetology is so on you for hair. Why isn’t it like that for doctors?”

After Martini’s surgery with Mowlavi in August 2022, she also developed life-threatening sepsis. 

“I’m noticing my incisions are splitting, they’re black, they’re oozing black. In fact, I thought what I saw was a bruise, but it was actually the necrosis.”

It was an infection so severe, it required additional surgery to remove the dead tissue. Martini says she had no idea that would result in a double mastectomy.  

And perhaps most disturbing, her initial surgery with Mowlavi came just seven weeks before a decision by the Medical Board that led to a 90-day suspension of his license to practice medicine.

That stipulated settlement and disciplinary order was actually agreed to by Mowlavi on May 13, 2022, three months before her surgery which changed her life forever. 

“it was just like shocking that as a patient and you know a client, I’m not informed,” said Martini.

Martini’s lawsuit against Mowlavi is on hold because he’s declared bankruptcy. But a civil suit filed by the Orange County district attorney last June accuses Mowlavi of “unlawful transactions made with the purpose of avoiding financial liability… transferring $13 million of real estate and personal property assets to his spouse” in September 2021 and “… concealing the transfer from the court and his creditors.” 

That suit also alleges unlawful medical practice, mayhem, and battery. But in December, the district attorney’s office asked the judge to put the civil case on hold pending the outcome of its criminal investigation into Mowlavi.

Meanwhile, Bobbi—or patient A— is still paying off her medical bills. 

“Yeah, it’s close to $2 million,” said Bobbi.

Last month’s accusation by the Medical Board detailing her case cites 8 causes for discipline, including “Gross Negligence,” “Dishonesty or Corruption” and “General Unprofessional Conduct.” The next step is a hearing by the Medical Board to once again consider revoking or suspending Mowlavi’s license. 

The I-Team has confirmed dozens of other women have also filed complaints with the Medical Board about Mowlavi. The Board cannot confirm or deny if other investigations into the doctor are underway, citing privacy issues.

The I-Team reached out to Dr. Mowlavi’s attorney, but he did not respond to our request for an interview.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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