Last fall, Dr. Mark Weinberger pleaded guilty to 22 counts of health care fraud. He’ll be sentenced on those counts next month in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Indiana, but some of his patients - and their families -- are in civil court now, asking for compensation. Jury selection for the first civil case began Monday morning in Lake Superior Court in Hammond, which is adjacent to the federal courthouse.
Weinberger is trying to fend off a $50 million claim filed by the family of a Valpraiso woman. Family members accuse Weinberger of failing to diagnose Phyllis Barnes with lung cancer. Barnes had seen him for a raspy throat. Weinberger had performed surgery, but didn’t catch Barnes’ cancer. She died in 2004 at the age of 50.
The attorney for Barnes’ estate, Kenneth J. Allen of Valparaiso, claims it was Barnes’ death that pushed Weinberger to flee the country in 2005 while he vacationed in Greece. He wasn’t found until 2009, when authorities discovered him on an Italian mountainside, hiding in a tent.
Weinberger didn’t attend today’s court proceedings but is expected to be in the courthouse the rest of the week.
Although Weinberger lived in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, a chauffer-driven limousine transported the doctor to his practice in Merrillville on a daily basis.
Even after this case, Weinberger faces a slew of civil cases related to his guilty plea on the 22 counts of health care fraud.
Weinberger’s former wife is expected to testify for the plaintiff in the case.