Solomon says former patients who filed suit 'ambushed' him Ex-health secretary lost license in sex scandal

January 24, 1996|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Dr. Neil Solomon, the former Maryland health secretary who lost his medical license in 1993 after admitting to having sex with at least eight female patients, said this week that he was "ambushed" by three former patients who sued him for malpractice, seeking $160 million in damages.

In a statement released by his attorney, the one-time gubernatorial hopeful and advice columnist admits to violating medical ethics and having "extramarital contact with some fully consenting women." But Dr. Solomon "avows he never sexually abused" the women.

The statement, released Monday, sets the stage for his return to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in April. There, said his attorney, Alan M. Grochal, Dr. Solomon will try to show that "either his liability is not so certain, or [the former patients'] damages are tremendously less."

Mr. Grochal said his client believes the women sued him in the hope of "extracting money from him." They timed their complaints to get "maximum leverage," just as Dr. Solomon was beginning his gubernatorial bid.

"Dr. Solomon doesn't believe it [the timing] was just a coincidence," Mr. Grochal said.

The malpractice lawsuits were blocked in September 1993 when Dr. Solomon filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. The dispute then was moved into bankruptcy court.

Joanne Suder, an attorney representing the three former patients, dismissed Dr. Solomon's statement as "self-serving."

She said Dr. Solomon's assertion that he never sexually abused the women is contradicted by his own admissions before the Board of Physician Quality Assurance.

In October 1993, Dr. Solomon was stripped of his medical license after signing a statement admitting that for 20 years he "used my position as a physician to instigate a wide range of sexual relations with at least eight women patients for my own sexual gratification."

In what observers called its harshest sanction ever, the state board barred him from ever trying to regain his license. It further stipulated that if Dr. Solomon ever publicly denied his "unprofessional sexual conduct" the board would release the findings of its 2 1/2 -month investigation, including confidential details.

Ms. Suder rejected Dr. Solomon's claims that the three women were "all friends of each other" and that they were "anonymous."

"I don't think any of them knew each other socially," she said. "One of them lived out of state." And while their names were not disclosed because of the nature of the allegations, Dr. Solomon has "known who they were the entire time," she said.

The bankruptcy court has given permission for Dr. Solomon's attorney to take sworn depositions next month from his accusers.

In a financial plan filed with the court, Dr. Solomon offered to pay the three former patients a total of $45,000. Most of his $2.2 million in assets has been judged beyond the reach of the former patients because it is held in retirement accounts, or in assets held jointly with his wife.

Last week, Dr. Solomon offered to increase the payment to $70,000. Of that, however, approximately $22,000 would be diverted to pay legal fees, mostly to Dr. Solomon's attorney.

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