Solomon's nest egg is sought

December 17, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

A lawyer for three women who allege that they were sexually abused by Dr. Neil Solomon while in his care argued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday that they are entitled to make claims against some of the assets or income from more than $1.5 million in his private retirement accounts.

Dr. Solomon's attorneys say that, under state and federal bankruptcy law, such retirement money is beyond the reach of creditors.

Instead, the former state health secretary said that if required he could pay $750 a month for five years toward any successful claim against him. The payments would come from monthly income of $2,600 from his state pension, which is not protected from creditors under bankruptcy law.

In a financial statement filed in October, Dr. Solomon listed all but $44,144 of nearly $2.2 million in assets as retirement funds or property held jointly with his wife and contended that it is, therefore, off limits.

Judge E. Stephen Derby yesterday gave an attorney for the women until Feb. 9 to develop their case, and set a new hearing for Feb. 24.

In the meantime, Judge Derby was to hear arguments today on a separate motion by the former patients that he lift the stays that have halted their civil lawsuits against Dr. Solomon in Baltimore Circuit Court.

The three former patients sued in July and August, seeking damages totaling $140 million from Dr. Solomon for allegedly luring them into sexual relationships. The husband of one of the patients joined her in the suit. To protect their privacy, the court sealed all of their names.

On Oct. 27, a state panel permanently took Dr. Solomon's medical license after he admitted to having sex with at least eight patients over the past 20 years.

In his bankruptcy plan, Dr. Solomon, 62, lists total income of more than $15,000 a month but contends that his monthly expenses nearly equal his income. He proposes to pay $750 a month to the bankruptcy trustee to be set aside for any creditors whose claims might be upheld by the bankruptcy judge.

Edward C. Dolan, attorney for the three former patients who filed suit, said that Dr. Solomon's list of expenses is "exaggerated" and leaves too little money available to creditors.

Bankruptcy trustee Ellen Cosby joined Mr. Dolan in asking for more time to investigate whether income from Dr. Solomon's retirement accounts can legally be tapped by creditors.

Ms. Cosby said Dr. Solomon's listed monthly expenditures are "far more than could be considered reasonable" to meet his living expenses and the support of his dependents. If Dr. Solomon is able to withdraw money from his retirement and pension funds to pay such expenses, she said, perhaps some portion ought to be regarded as disposable income accessible to creditors.

Monthly expenses listed by Dr. Solomon in court papers include, among other things, $1,700 for recreation, clubs and entertainment and $1,230 for security, grounds maintenance and domestic help at his home in Baltimore.

Alan M. Grochal, the attorney for Dr. Solomon said that bankruptcy laws protect his client's retirement assets until such time as he is forced by terms of the retirement vehicles to withdraw the money.

The stays that have stopped action in the civil suits against Dr. Solomon were issued routinely in September when he filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy code. If the stays are not lifted, the bankruptcy judge would eventually determine whether the former patients are entitled to any compensation from Dr. Solomon, and how much they may receive.

Mr. Dolan said he believes that the bankruptcy action "was filed as a litigation tactic," to use the bankruptcy laws to limit any financial damage from the former patients' suits. He said his clients remain the only potential "creditors" listed in the bankruptcy case and, thus far, Dr. Solomon has not acknowledged any liability or damages in the claims against him.

"Given the nature of the claims, our clients have the right to have those determinations made by a [Circuit Court] jury," he said. "It's a very important protection of our clients' interests and that's where we want the determinations to be made."

Mr. Grochal, the attorney for Dr. Solomon, said that lifting the stays would be "a ludicrous solution, because nothing would be accomplished." Even if a Circuit Court jury awarded the former patients $150 million, he said, it would not change the amount Dr. Solomon is capable of paying from his unprotected assets under current bankruptcy laws.

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