Aron files suit against husband She alleges malpractice in prescribing drugs

'Psychotic break' claimed

Developer is on trial for attempting to hire man to kill her spouse

July 25, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Ruthann Aron, the millionaire developer on trial for soliciting the murder of her physician husband, filed a $25 million medical malpractice suit against him yesterday, alleging a decade of improper medical care that contributed to her impaired mental state.

Aron, 55, is nearing the conclusion of her second trial on murder-for-hire charges, and has pleaded not criminally responsible -- Maryland's version of the insanity defense.

She filed suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday as a counterclaim to the $7.5 million suit Dr. Barry Aron filed against her last month. Dr. Aron is seeking damages for severe mental anguish resulting from her attempt on his life.

"The first thought in this whole case is that Barry Aron is some sort of victim in this whole thing," said Barry J. Nace, a Washington lawyer representing Mrs. Aron. "It's Ruthann who's the victim."

Reached at his home last night, Dr. Aron's lawyer, Stephen Friedman, said he had not seen the suit and declined to comment. Also named in the suit is Dr. Aron's practice, Urological Consultants P.A. of Potomac.

In the suit, Mrs. Aron contends that her husband failed to adhere to basic standards of medical care. Without diagnosing her mental health condition, Dr. Aron prescribed drugs, including Valium, Xanax and Halcion, over a 10-year period beginning in 1988 and ending in June 1997.

For a person suffering from bipolar and borderline personality disorders, major depression and suicidal tendencies, as Mrs. Aron's doctors claim she was, those drugs can produce serious consequences, according to the suit.

Those side effects led to what the lawsuit describes as a "psychotic break," culminating in Mrs. Aron's arrest June 9, 1997, a few hours after she had dropped a $500 deposit at a Gaithersburg hotel toward a contract on her husband's life.

The suit goes on to accuse Dr. Aron of breaching his physician duties through "reckless" conduct that caused her severe emotional distress, including "flagrant infidelity," verbal taunts about his alleged extramarital affairs, suggestions to Mrs. Aron that she take her own life and providing suggested methods and suicide "tools."

Asked about his prescription practices for his wife two weeks ago as he testified at her trial, Dr. Aron said he was following a common practice among doctors in prescribing for family members. He said that over the same years he regularly prescribed those drugs to patients and was comfortable with his knowledge of them.

'Serious side effects'

"He's a urologist who's prescribing all these psychiatric drugs," said Nace, Mrs. Aron's lawyer. "Does he have a diagnosis? These drugs can have some very serious side effects. Xanax, specifically, you don't give if a patient is bipolar, and I think it's pretty clear in this case that she was."

Dr. Aron also testified that other than having an extramarital affair early in their marriage, he had been romantically involved with no one but his wife in the years prior to her arrest. He denied taunting her.

Mrs. Aron is asking for $5 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

Her criminal trial enters its fourth week Monday in Montgomery fTC County Circuit Court.

Aron, who made an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1994, also is accused of soliciting the murder of attorney Arthur ,, Kahn, who had opposed her in a civil suit filed by her former business partners.

Matter-of-fact discussion

Prosecutors have underscored Mrs. Aron's demeanor during the first week of June 1997 as she went forward with the alleged murder-for-hire plan. They have played audiotapes in which she matter-of-factly tells an undercover detective whom she thinks is a hit man "I want to read about somebody in the obits" and spells her husband's name.

And they have produced photos of her after she donned a trench coat, red wig and floppy hat as an apparent disguise to drop off the cash deposit. Their medical experts in the first trial concluded that Mrs. Aron was faking mental illness.

The defense case is built on the testimony of its own psychiatrists and psychologists who found Mrs. Aron suffering from several, overlapping disorders. Those disorders caused her behave uncharacteristically and irrationally, they said.

"With her condition," Nace said, "these drugs can impair judgment and cause confusion. You end up with someone who's losing touch with what's going on in the real world."

Pub Date: 7/25/98

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