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Verdicts & Settlements

$3.5 Million Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit Against Fake Doctor

A class action lawsuit involving mental health patients treated by a man who posed as a psychiatrist has been settled for $3.5 million.

Hundreds of Northeast Philadelphia patients assumed the psychiatrist their HMO referred them to was a real doctor, and they went to him for help.

But David E. Tremoglie was a fake, and he served time in federal prison as punishment for treating people without a valid medical license, according to court documents.

"Mental health patients are among the most vulnerable people in our community," said Alan M. Feldman of Feldman, Shepherd, Wohlgelernter, Tanner and Weinstock, who represented the class.

The class was made up of about 350 of the 500 patients contacted by class counsel. Feldman estimated that after costs for expenses, attorney fees and an incentive award for the title plaintiff were subtracted from the settlement amount, a class member could recover about $5,000.

Six years ago, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas certified the class of mental health patients who sued Tremoglie, along with his insurer, the mental health services provider that hired him and the HMO that referred the patients to him, according to court documents.

The lawsuit contended that the defendants had misrepresented Tremoglie as a licensed practitioner and that they failed to notify Tremoglie's patients when they learned he had lied about his credentials and experience, according to court documents.

Judge Stephen E. Levin said the class could attempt to recover economic, nominal and punitive damages for invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality, fraud and breach of contract in Katlin v. Tremoglie.

In 2002, Judge Allan L. Tereshko granted summary judgments in favor of the defendants, finding that the class members did not have the proof to support their claims. The case was appealed.

Tremoglie "practiced" as a psychiatrist at a treatment center on Bustleton Avenue for about eight months in 1996, according to court documents. Patients were referred to him through Keystone Health Plan East Inc., a health maintenance organization and subsidiary of Independence Blue Cross, which subcontracted the care and treatment of their clients needing psychiatric and substance abuse treatment to GreenSpring Health Services Inc., a mental health care provider, according to court documents.

Tremoglie eventually admitted that his medical license, as well as his license to write prescriptions, were fraudulent, and GreenSpring fired him in October 1996. But GreenSpring didn't notify Katlin or Tremoglie's other patients that their psychiatrist hadn't been a real psychiatrist until nine months later -- a week after Katlin filed the class action lawsuit, according to court documents.

The parties settled the breach of contract claim, and GreenSpring refunded about $10,000 for co- payment fees the patients had made for Tremoglie's treatment, according to court documents.

The remaining claims proceeded to court, where Tereshko granted the summary judgments in favor of the defendants in July 2002, according to court documents.

Katlin appealed the ruling to the Superior Court, but before the court ruled on the case, GreenSpring and another of the defendants, Advantage Behavioral Systems Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2003. The courts then stayed the action, according to court documents.

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