A judge confirmed the award in favor of Dr. David Newell, who contended he was fired after raising concerns about another Swedish surgeon. Swedish plans to appeal.

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A judge has confirmed a $17.5 million award in favor of a neurosurgeon who contended that Swedish Health fired him after he challenged the practices of a top doctor.

Swedish had appealed the arbitration ruling, arguing Dr. David Newell violated the terms of his contract when he failed to notify the organization that he had been arrested in a Seattle prostitution sting. In a brief order filed Thursday, King County Superior Court Judge Ken Schubert said he had reviewed the arguments on both sides and was confirming the full award, which had been determined by arbitrator Paris Kallas.

Schubert also confirmed an additional $685,000 award requiring Swedish and parent organization Providence to pay attorney fees and costs for the case. Swedish said in a statement that it planned to continue fighting the decisions.


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“We fully intend to appeal this gross injustice,” said Dr. Guy Hudson, CEO of Swedish.

Newell’s attorney, Robert Sulkin, said everyone should be concerned about the circumstances of the surgeon’s termination. “The real story here is that Swedish has been found to have punished a doctor who brought safety concerns to the attention of its administration,” Sulkin said.

More than a decade ago, Newell co-founded the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. He helped grow the program and his own practice, becoming a top-producing surgeon for the health system.

Newell contended in his legal case against Swedish that in recent years he filed internal concerns about another surgeon, Dr. Johnny Delashaw, who was the subject of a Seattle Times investigation earlier this year and later had his state license suspended. At the time, Delashaw had faced complaints from a variety of co-workers.

Newell had also expressed internal concern that Delashaw was trying to take some of his work and potentially get him fired for flimsy reasons.

In July 2016, Newell was arrested at the site of a University District massage parlor police were using in a sting operation. Newell later pleaded guilty to soliciting a prostitute, according to records, and agreed to pay a fine and do 80 hours of community service.

Swedish said Newell failed to follow his contract, which required him to notify the organization if he was under criminal investigation. Newell’s attorneys argued in the arbitration case that the surgeon didn’t know after his arrest that he was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Both Newell and Delashaw currently have cases pending before the state Department of Health. The agency determined in May that Newell could face sanctions for unprofessional conduct, and he has a hearing scheduled in that matter this week. Delashaw is seeking to get his license back but doesn’t currently have a hearing date listed for his case.