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Fresno jury says Dr. Moffett owes $1.4 million to former colleagues

Dr. Michael J. Moffett, center, chats with his lawyers, Travis Stokes, left, and Charles Doerksen after testifying on Jan. 28, 2016.
Dr. Michael J. Moffett, center, chats with his lawyers, Travis Stokes, left, and Charles Doerksen after testifying on Jan. 28, 2016. plopez@fresnobee.com

The civil trial of a Fresno doctor who was accused of cutting a secret deal with a competitor ended Tuesday with the jury ordering him to pay his former partners at the California Cancer Associates for Research, widely known as cCare.

The Fresno County Superior Court jury ordered Dr. Michael J. Moffett to pay cCare $200,000 in punitive damages on top of $1,246,559, which the jury said Monday that Moffett misused in company money.

Moffett’s fiancee/administrator, Marie E. Shaffer, also owes money to cCare, the jury ruled: $10,000 in punitive damages and $25,172 in misused company money.

This week’s verdicts were a shocking turn of events in the nearly month-long trial.

Just last week, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Alan Simpson ordered cCare to pay Moffett more than $1 million in unpaid deferred compensation and for his shares in the company.

Simpson, however, told the jury that it had to deliberate on cCare’s countered claim that Moffett, 55, and Shaffer, 49, had defrauded the company out of more than $1 million in damages by cutting a back-door deal with a competitor to financially ruin cCare.

After finding that the couple had committed financial misconduct, the jury ordered punitive damages, which are intended to punish or deter a defendant in a civil action from engaging in conduct that led to the lawsuit.

Moffett was president and chief executive officer of cCare near Herndon and Cedar avenues in northeast Fresno until he resigned in 2013.

Founded in 1993 in Fresno, cCare is a group of doctors specializing in providing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for patients diagnosed with cancer.

As president, chief executive officer and a practicing oncologist, Moffett had exclusive authority to manage the business without requiring approval of shareholders and the board of directors, court records say.

During the trial, Fresno lawyers Charles Doerksen and Travis Stokes, who represented Moffett and Shaffer, said cCare partners made the doctor’s life miserable and breached his employment contract “when they pushed him out the door.”

Irvine-based lawyer Mark M. Scott, who represents the medical group, told the jury that Moffett “essentially committed treason” when he cut a secret deal with a competitor. Scott also accused Moffett of paying himself excessive compensation and spending money lavishly on himself and Shaffer. And when the medical group found out, Scott said, Moffett erased phone messages and scrubbed information from his laptop and desk computer.

Both sides agree that Moffett made about $1 million a year as president and CEO of cCare. But so did the other doctors in the group.

Thursday, Simpson ordered cCare to pay Moffett $525,358 in unpaid deferred compensation and $532,625 for his shares.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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