CHICAGO (CBS) – A jury in Hammond, Ind., has awarded $13 million to the estate of a woman in a medical malpractice case against a notorious northwest Indiana “nose doctor.”
On Thursday, the jury also awarded $10 million in punitive damages against Dr. Mark Weinberger, a former Merrillville ear, nose and throat specialist.
The jury did not find Valparaiso physician assistant Joe Clinkenbeard liable for the wrongful death of Phyllis Barnes and cleared him.
Barnes’ daughter, Shawn Barnes of Valparaiso, smiled when the verdict was read by Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider shortly after 7:30 p.m.
“I am not disappointed,” said Barnes, 25.
Her aunt, Peggy Hood of Valparaiso, called the verdict “very fair. I am very happy with it.”
Their attorney, Kenneth Allen, said the jury verdict “will be enough to send Weinberger a message that he’s not going to reap any profits from his ill-gotten gains or future deals. This verdict will follow him like O.J.’s (former NFL star O.J. Simpson) did and make sure that one way or the other, he pays for his wrongs.”
Weinberger is being sued for medical malpractice by more than 350 other former patients and faces an April 27 sentencing hearing for federal criminal healthcare fraud charges to which he pleaded guilty. He was arrested as a fugitive in northern Italy in 1999, and was brought back to Indiana after trying to commit suicide with a box cutter he had hidden in his rectum.
Clinkenbeard, who didn’t know or work with Weinberger, treated Barnes 11 times in 2000 and 2001 for a variety of sinus and bronchial complaints. Weinberger performed serious sinus surgery on her late in 2001, surgery that Allen alleged was unnecessary.
But the defense argued that Weinberg acted appropriately. Weinberger defense attorney James Hough called Chicago oncologist Lawrence Feldman, who testified that by the time Weinberger treated Barnes late in 2001, even if he had detected her cancer, Barnes probably would have died anyway.
Weinberger, who remains incarcerated at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. Attorney Hough declined comment, as did Clinkenbeard.
But Clinkenbeard’s assistant’s South Bend attorney, Georgianne Walker, uttered a one-word response. “Justice,” she whispered.
Because Indiana’s malpractice law allows a maximum of $1.25 million per alleged incident of malpractice, Weinberger’s insurers are likely to file a motion to reduce the $3 million jury verdict.
The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire