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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, who represented the class with Thomas More Marrone. 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. Later that year, the bankruptcy court permitted the stay to be modified in order for the parties to resolve Katlin, court documents stated. The case was transferred from Superior Court back to Tereshko so he could oversee the settlement, Feldman said. Tereshko preliminarily approved the settlement on Jan. 26, and the court will consider any objections to the agreement at a fairness hearing April 12 before deciding whether to grant final approval, according to court records. Documents describing the settlement said that payments would be made by GreenSpring’s insurer, and that the insurer would pay for up to $5,000 of the additional cost of notifying class members. The defendants denied all allegations of wrongdoing and liability asserted in the suit, but “have concluded that it is in their best interests to settle,” according to the documents. Feldman and Marrone would collect one-third of the settlement amount, according to court documents. A representative award of $300,000 to the title plaintiff in the action, Harold Katlin, will also be deducted from the $3.5 million. Katlin was the only member of the class whose identity and records were made public for purposes of litigation, Feldman explained. When Levin certified the class, he had said it was unnecessary to require all members to expose their private mental health records because of the sensitivity of the information. “That is why special recognition of an award is made to the representative plaintiff, Katlin, who did put his records out there and went through a deposition with defendant lawyers,” Feldman said. GreenSpring was represented by James C. Stroud of Rawle & Henderson, who said that he and his clients were pleased with the way the case turned out, emphasizing how Tereshko had found that the class could not prove its case against the defendants. Keystone was represented by Sheryl L. Auerbach of Dilworth Paxson, who declined to comment Friday. A spokesman for Keystone Health Plan East said the corporation was pleased to see the matter conclude, noting that neither it nor its insurer would have to contribute anything to the settlement. Tremoglie’s attorney, Terry L. McCallum of Terry L. McCallum & Associates, could not be reached. In addition to the class action lawsuit, about 30 cases were brought by individual patients that Tremoglie had treated. Those cases settled in 2002, said Feldman, whose firm represented about 17 of the individual cases.

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