HAMMOND| Mark Weinberger, the captured international fugitive formerly known as "The Nose Doctor," goes to court Monday.
Weinberger will appear in Lake Superior Court in Hammond, where he faces a civil lawsuit accusing him of negligence in the 2004 death of a former Valparaiso woman, Phyllis Barnes.
Kenneth Allen, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Barnes family, said the case is important on a number of levels.
"This is the first civil case that was filed against Weinberger and the most important because in a sense it was the reason he left the country," Allen said.
Weinberger was captured on an Italian mountainside Dec. 15, 2009, 5 1/2 years after he disappeared on a family trip to Greece. A guide on the mountain tipped off authorities the former Merrillville doctor was living in a tent with high-tech survival gear.
The civil suit Weinberger faces also is important because it is the case in which punitive damages -- up to $50 million -- are being sought by an individual, Allen said.
Allen filed a lawsuit on Barnes' behalf in October 2004, alleging Weinberger's medical negligence caused Barnes' death.
He said Barnes, who was suffering a raspy throat and nasal problems, went to Weinberger after seeing a billboard promoting his Merrillville-based business.
"She went there for a diagnosis and got unnecessary surgery and delay. He never diagnosed her cancer," Allen said.
Barnes was 50 when she died on Sept. 16, 2004, due to lung cancer.
In addition, Weinberger last October pleaded guilty in federal court to 22 counts of health care fraud for billing almost two dozen patients' health care providers for surgical procedures he did not perform, court records state.
Sentencing in that case is scheduled for April 27.
Weinberger also faces more than 350 state medical malpractice suits, as well as a federal lawsuit filed by his malpractice insurance provider. That insurance provider claims Weinberger breached his contract when he became an international fugitive, therefore making him liable for the hundreds of malpractice cases.
The federal lawsuit and most of the state medical malpractice suits are still pending.