Solomon concedes his liability

December 18, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Dr. Neil Solomon's attorney conceded in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday that his client is liable for payment of damages to three women who allege that he took sexual advantage of them while they were in his care.

"We will not object to or dispute their claim, and concede that they will get all net . . . payments" from a bankruptcy plan to be approved by the court, said attorney Alan M. Grochal.

James H. Lystad, a lawyer representing the three former patients, took the concession as a victory, although he lost a bid yesterday to allow his clients' lawsuits against Dr. Solomon to go forward before a jury in Baltimore Circuit Court.

"By pushing for a jury trial, we forced the debtor's [Dr. Solomon's] hand here. . . . It appears the debtor has put behind him the issue of liability, and our clients will have their claims allowed in the bankruptcy. That is really to our benefit."

That leaves it up to the bankruptcy judge to decide how much Dr. Solomon will have to pay the former patients.

Judge E. Stephen Derby must first resolve arguments by attorneys for the former patients that Dr. Solomon filed his Chapter 13 bankruptcy case improperly or in a "bad faith" bid to avoid a fair settlement.

If the women prevail in their arguments, the case could be thrown out of Bankruptcy Court and "there will be time enough to resume their state court action," Judge Derby said.

The dispute is to be aired in a Bankruptcy Court hearing set to resume Feb. 24.

Judge Derby, in denying the motion to allow the lawsuits to proceed in Circuit Court, said yesterday that a jury trial would be "a useless exercise." It would last six to 12 months and drain large amounts of cash from Dr. Solomon's assets for legal expenses, he said, without changing the amount of money the women could legally collect under state and federal bankruptcy law.

Mr. Grochal welcomed the decision to keep the case in bankruptcy court rather than have the matter placed before a jury.

"There are a lot of emotions running real high on the other side," he said, referring to the allegations against his client. "We want it to be decided on the law."

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 their names.

A state panel permanently revoked Dr. Solomon's medical license after he admitted having sex with at least eight patients over the past 20 years.

On Sept. 20, Dr. Solomon filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13, listing more than $2 million in assets. The only potential liabilities he reported were the three lawsuits.

He listed all but $44,144 of his assets as retirement funds or property held jointly with his wife and contended that under the bankruptcy code, those funds were off limits to the former patients who have sued him.

On Thursday, attorneys for the three former patients and the federal bankruptcy trustee in the case were given until Feb. 9 to investigate whether the women might gain access to the assets or income from Dr. Solomon's $1.5 million in retirement accounts.

Attorneys for the women are also seeking to convert the case to Chapter 7, a part of the bankruptcy code that offers a potential for a more generous award.

Under Chapter 13, litigants such as Dr. Solomon's former patients are entitled to no more than the bankruptcy court decides he can afford to pay in three years of monthly payments. Dr. Solomon has offered to pay $750 a month for five years, or a total of $45,000 for the three women and the one spouse who have sued him.

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