Solomon loses appeal to shield IRAs

September 09, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

Dr. Neil Solomon has lost an appeal in his legal battle to shield more than $1.4 million in retirement savings from three former patients who have sued him for luring them into sexual relations while in his care.

In a one-page decision, U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin has upheld a federal bankruptcy judge who found that Dr. Solomon's proposed payments to the former patients must be increased to reflect potential income from his individual retirement accounts (IRAs) even if he isn't withdrawing the money.

"That's important, from a justice point of view, and a fairhandedness point of view," said Edward C. Dolan, a lawyer for the former patients, who have remained anonymous since filing their civil suits in July and August 1993.

Dr. Solomon's lawyer, Alan M. Grochal, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal Judge Smalkin's Aug. 17 decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Grochal said he was "disappointed, not only as to the result but that there was very little discussion as to his [Judge Smalkin's] reasoning. We obviously disagree very strongly."

Dr. Solomon is a former state health secretary, a nationally syndicated health columnist and a diet guru. He sought protection under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy code last September in the wake of the lawsuits. In October, a state panel permanently took his medical license after he admitted to having sex with at least eight patients in the past 20 years. He has also acknowledged his liability to the plaintiffs.

In a financial plan submitted to the court, Dr. Solomon said all but $44,143 of his $2.2 million in assets was retirement savings or property held jointly with his wife. Such assets are exempt from the claims of creditors under state law. Since he lost his license, Dr. Solomon has lived on a budget of nearly $8,000 a month, most of the money coming from exempt assets other than the IRAs.

He has proposed to the court to pay the former patients $750 a month from his state pension over five years, a total of $45,000.

The patients' civil suits sought a total of $160 million in damages.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge E. Stephen Derby last spring rejected

the proposed payments as too small.

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