Tiffany Spencer v. United States of America: U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant has never been criticized for lacking backbone or being easy to manipulate. In a recent hearing for damages before Bryant, chiropractor Mark Lepensky, of Orange, got more than he could handle-and nothing he could pocket.
“I’ve been practicing for 23 years, testifying in court frequently. This was definitely the strangest hearing I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
Lepensky said Bryant quizzed him for 20 minutes after the attorneys had finished, asking some personal questions he thought were irrelevant, such as what his annual gross income was. He told her it was about $200,000, he said.
The case arose from a September 2004 car accident in New Haven. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Raymond Walcyzyk struck a vehicle carrying Tiffany Spencer and her 5-year-old son at an intersection. Spencer’s lawyer referred mother and son to Lepensky.
The doctor testified that 90 percent of his business is from attorney referrals, adding that his rate for testifying was $750 per hour. Lepensky told the judge that he had agreed to waive Spencer’s treatment charges if she failed to recover in court. Bryant, in a May 9 opinion, sounded unimpressed. She noted that Lepensky “did not have a command of the facts of this case and had to reread his notes repeatedly to refresh his recollection.”
Lepensky had started treatment immediately. He diagnosed Spencer with neuralgia and cervical and lumbar back sprains. She stopped complaining of neck pain the second month, but he treated her twice a month through Feb. 2005.
The chiropractor gave Spencer the same assessment on Feb. 1 and Feb. 22, “namely that she ‘is feeling approximately the same.’” Yet on Feb. 22, Bryant wrote, he “abruptly determined that Tiffany had reached her maximum medical improvement and did not need further treatment.” Based on her complaints of pain, Lepensky gave Spencer a 5 percent permanent partial disability rating.
Lepensky prescribed certain exercises to manage the pain, but in court could not recall or describe them, Bryant wrote.
Lepensky also treated 5-year-old Tyler Spencer Huggins on a weekly basis. He acknowledged that it is “not normal” to treat such a young child. On Dec. 21, 2004, he “abruptly” determined the child had fully recovered and needed no further treatment, Bryant found. His notes about the boy contain no subjective complaints or objective findings on that date, Bryant wrote.
She concluded that neither plaintiff adequately showed they needed chiropractic treatment. The judge said she “declines to credit Lepensky’s testimony because of the abrupt changes in treatment plans recorded in his notes.”
Lepensky’s lack of subjective complaints or objective findings cast further doubt on his credibility, Bryant wrote. “I could tell she didn’t like me, or how much I made, or what I charged,” Lepensky said in an interview. When the judge’s questioning ranged far afield, he said, “my attorney didn’t object. But both sides objected when she started asking about the boy’s psychological state, which wasn’t ever a part of the case.”
Bryant allowed $437.50 for the ambulance and $180.36 for her hospital treatment, throwing in $1,000 for Spencer’s pain and suffering, and $500 for her son’s.
Lepensky was represented by New Haven’s John F. Buckley Jr., of Buckley & Wynne, who did not return calls for comment before press time.
–Thomas B. Scheffey