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Settlement reached in Weinberger medical malpractice suits

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Rob Tepperman of Munster sensed something odd right after Dr. Mark Weinberger performed surgery to relieve sinusitis in 1999. Tepperman’s wife, Susan, was in the waiting room where she was told Weinberger would be out to speak with her afterward. The doctor never came.

“She was livid,” Tepperman, 56, said. Susan wanted to consult with the ear, nose and throat doctor about follow-up care, so she called Weinberger on his office phone. Tepperman said Weinberger “was rather belligerent toward her.”
 

weinberger-mark-mug.jpg Weinberger

Things got stranger. Tepperman said his condition became worse than before Weinberger operated. Tepperman thought something was wrong after he went to another ENT who told him that he probably wouldn’t have performed the surgery. Tepperman, who owns a Hammond industrial safety supply company, got in touch with attorneys at Theodoros & Rooth P.C. in Merrillville.

Tepperman’s initial sense of wrongdoing by the doctor was cemented when Weinberger disappeared, abandoning his multi-million-dollar Merrillville practice. For years, as claims mounted that Weinberger had performed unnecessary or damaging surgeries and billed for procedures he didn’t do, the jet-setting “Nose Doctor” led authorities on a high-profile manhunt until he was discovered hiding in the Italian Alps in 2009.

Weinberger is now in federal prison, serving a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty this year to 22 counts of health care fraud. More than 300 of his former patients had sued for malpractice, and the majority got a measure of relief recently.


Rooth Rooth

A settlement on behalf of about 280 patients represented by Theodoros & Rooth and Cohen & Malad LLP of Indianapolis taps $55 million from the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The settlement caps the fund’s liability for claims of patients represented by the two firms.

“While (Weinberger) may be sitting in prison serving time for health care fraud, he’s not serving time for the injuries he caused these patients,” said attorney Barry Rooth, who represented Tepperman.


Cutshaw Cutshaw

Cohen & Malad partner David Cutshaw said patient settlements will average more than $200,000 and range from about $120,000 to $470,000 based on a formula developed by an ethicist who reviewed individual cases. The settlement was approved by Lake Superior Judge John Pera on June 24.

“It was encouraging to see the commissioner of the Department of Insurance step up and make some favorable decisions,” Cutshaw said of the settlement that grew from court-ordered mediation.

“I am pleased that, after over eight years, the parties were able to overcome the roadblocks that had been preventing settlement,” Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson said in a statement announcing the settlement.

A special master who oversaw mediation couldn’t resolve disagreement about the scope of liability for ProAssurance, Weinberger’s former malpractice carrier, Cutshaw said. “We’ll be asking the court to expedite a ruling on that.”

The settlement does not cover cases represented by the Merrillville law office of Kenneth J. Allen & Associates. Information from the firm about the status of those cases could not be obtained by IL deadline.

Because some of the cases are now almost 20 years old, Cutshaw and Rooth said, each still must be unraveled with special care. In the intervening years, some former patients died. Some declared bankruptcy. Some lost their homes to foreclosure.

“This presents a cornucopia of legal issues,” Cutshaw said. “There are evidentiary issues unique to Weinberger because he fled the country. … You couldn’t draft a bar exam question that would encompass all that.”

During Weinberger’s years on the lam and even after his extradition, Tepperman said he had doubts that he’d ever see anything from his malpractice complaint. He said it’s also odd to be part of such an unusual case.

“What a fall from grace,” Tepperman said, referring to Weinberger. “He put himself knowingly in a position of committing crimes and victimizing people. He could have had such a successful career had he chosen to help people. He took the course of being, in my mind, a criminal.”

Rooth said Tepperman’s experience “is a good example of what a tragedy this is. Here’s a successful business owner who did his homework,” and was convinced that he was in good hands because of Weinberger’s Ivy League education, top-notch residencies and fellowships, and the apparent success of his practice.

“Thank God I had some good attorneys working on it that stuck with it for years,” Tepperman said. “I’m still dealing with a problem that was worse than when I went in. To have some monetary reward for that is certainly nice.

“My wife’s more thrilled than I am,” he said.•
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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