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Weinberger cases settle for $55M

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Hundreds of patients of a former Merrillville ear, nose and throat doctor serving a seven-year federal sentence for health-care fraud will be compensated for their medical malpractice claims through a $55 million settlement.

The Indiana Department of Insurance and two law firms that represent 282 malpractice claimants announced the settlement in a joint statement Monday. The patients represent the majority of more than 350 malpractice claims against former Dr. Mark Weinberger, who billed himself as “The Nose Doctor.” The settlement involves patients represented by Cohen & Malad LLP of Indianapolis and Theodoros & Rooth P.C. of Merrillville.

Weinberger was sentenced in October after he pleaded guilty to 22 counts of health care fraud. Weinberger eluded authorities for years after initial malpractice claims were filed in 2004. He was discovered hiding in the Italian Alps in 2009.

Patients accused Weinberger of performing unnecessary or outmoded surgeries, including drilling holes in patients’ sinuses, which worsened their conditions. Weinberger refused to answer questions in the civil cases, attorneys said.

“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.

The settlement was signed Monday by Lake Superior Judge John Pera.

“Coming to a resolution of the cases with the department goes a long way toward closure for Dr. Weinberger’s patients,” said David Cutshaw of Cohen & Malad.

Under the settlement, the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund will provide $55 million to pay malpractice claims. Cutshaw and Barry Rooth of Theodoros & Rooth said Monday that litigation against Weinberger's medical malpractice insurance carrier will continue.

“There are limits of liability that are still in our view available,” Rooth said in an interview.

Cutshaw said plaintiffs signed off on settlements that were reviewed by an ethicist who assigned value to each claim based on certain objective factors. Claimants were aware of the total settlement, how much they would receive and how much others, identified by initials, would receive.

“On behalf of our clients, I’d like to express our appreciation to Commissioner Robertson for his willingness to take the necessary and unprecedented steps to compensate Weinberger’s many victims,” Rooth said in the statement. “It’s been a long road for them.”

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