When the plaintiff's lawyer comes after your personal assets

May 1, 2006

When Lenard J. Rutkowski, MD, was sued for malpractice in 2001, he found himself fighting the lawsuit and, for the next 11 years, fighting for his financial future. The neurosurgeon found himself in hot water when he performed surgery on a patient, who later sued him for operating on the wrong vertebrae.

When Lenard J. Rutkowski, MD, was sued for malpractice in 2001, he found himself fighting the lawsuit and, for the next 11 years, fighting for his financial future. The neurosurgeon found himself in hot water when he performed surgery on a patient, who later sued him for operating on the wrong vertebrae. Although Rutkowski asked his malpractice liability insurer to settle the case before the trial for the policy limits in 2001, his request was ignored. When the case did go to trial, he lost. According to Medical Liability Monitor (2/2006), a verdict of $5.6 million in damages was returned-$2.6 million more than the policy limits of Rutkowski and his co-defendant, a radiologist.

Rutkowski appealed the verdict but claims he was kept in the dark about the status of the suit. Nearly a year after the trial, the plaintiff's attorney managed to freeze his corporate and personal accounts, put a lien on his home (which was in his wife's name), and froze their individual retirement accounts. To keep his practice operating, he filed for corporate and personal bankruptcy. Since then, Rutkowski claims he has paid more than $400,000 in legal fees for bankruptcy and other attorneys, accountants, and a federal trustee.

Although trial attorneys claim these cases never happen, Rutkowski has been sharing his story to show that it does. He offers this advice: