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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. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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