On Monday morning, January 16, 1995, I spoke with Mike. "I do not accept the settlement." I told him what Bob did, how he essentially forced me to take it.
"Carol, you said "Yes". You have to take it." "That's not right. I was literally forced to the point where I had to give in. Mike, I was crying by the end of the last call. He had to know my agreement wasn't voluntary. He forced me." "Well, it's too late now to take it back."
On Tuesday morning I received a letter from Bob. A release prepared by opposing counsel was included in the envelope. Neither side wanted to waste any time. "Please review...and, if it meets with your approval, please execute and return..."
Of course it did not meet with my approval. I spoke with Bob on the 19th, "The release does not meet with my approval. I do not authorize settlement." I had now said it 2x.
I talked with Mike on the 20th. I "instructed" him (as per his letter to me) "that there was no settlement." He asked me to give him a call so we could discuss it further.
We spoke, I reiterated, 'no settlemet'. He told me, once again, "You have no choice. You agreed."
My aloneness, again, was all that could inform me. I had to rely on them. He, and Bob, were the lawyers. They tell me I must take the settlement. Then what choice do I have? I cannot deal with getting another lawyer to fight these lawyers. All my reservoirs of energy and fight were depleted.
"Mike, you say I have to accept it. I don't and you don't accept it and Bob doesn't accept it when I tell you that. I guess I have no choice. Send me the paperwork."
The settlement was bupkis but at least it was over.
Dr. Jannetta essentially got away with it. The CAT or catastrophic medical malpractice fund, run by the state, paid almost half and his insurance paid all or almost all of the rest. I often think it would have been better had he been required to look me in the eye and take a dollar bill out of his pocket to hand me directly.
It would have been over, the upset, frustration, and anger, if not for the fact that within a month of the forced settlement Governor Ridge nominated Dr. Jannetta for the position of Pennsylvania Secretary Of Health.
My case was in the courts for 14 years, proof of perjury, and more, and suddenly it ended with the forced settlement. The timing seemed fortuitous. Had the case not ended it would have been impolitic to name someone whose testimony the court called perjurious.
I wrote the governor and all 50 senators. No one cared. The goveror's aide waited almost 3 months to reply, by which time the confirmation was a done deal. He wrote, in part, "the consistent information we received from peers, patients, the community...is that Dr. Jannetta possesses the highest integrity ad attributes of sound character and professional reputation." That would not have been so had my lawsuit still been active.
I went to the attorney general's office. I had to fight to speak with one of the lawyers. He looked at the Pa. Superior court's decision: "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial." Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92. Levy v Jannetta et al, No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995." It made no difference. "There is no case here." he said. It never dawned on me this AG was a Ridge appointee. Of course he would not take action.
I went to fee dispute. It was Mike, Bob, myself and 3 attorneys who would be hearing my complaint, and their defense. One attorney, in particular, made it clear he was on their side, treating me as though he was the lawyer for Fishbein and Unterberger.
It was an awful experience. The result was, and was not, what I expected. To my mind, since they did almost no work, they did not deserve more than $10,000, 1/6th or so of their fee. I knew that would not happen.
The decision was for an additional $10,000, for me. They found in my favor but the written decision read "We find for the attorney". So Fishbein and Unterberger were in the clear along with Jannetta.
I had 2 years in which to sue for legal malpractice. I talked to one attorney who was not interested: too much work because you have to prove you would have won the underlying medical malpractice case as well as prove the legal malpractice.
I called another office. The lawyer with whom I spoke felt I most definitely had a case. He wanted to discuss it with another lawyer in the firm. He called me back a few minutes later, anger in his voice. "Did you know Mr. Cantor, one of the partners, is one of the lawyers who heard your fee dispute case? What kind of game are you playing?" "No I didn't. The bar association gave me your number, but no name, when I asked for a recommendation." His voice softened. "All right then. But, obviously we cannot help you."
The physical pain of the trigeminal neuralgia as well as the emotional pain from all that had gone before made it too hard for me to call any others. Besides, Mike did not seem like a very happy man. He lost his "zest" and complained to me about his kids and family life (he has denied this). Maybe that was enough; I did not need to add to his misery.
And then I found out he was not as miserable as he had seemed.
I had heard about the Phen pen diet drug and the massive lawsuit against the company that made it.
And then I heard that Mike Fishbein had won a $58 million fee for himself and his lawfirm as one of the main lawyers in the case. So much for not having zest. This case was settled in 2000. It was ongoing during the time he had my case.
A number of years passed when I decided to try the state's attorney general again.
The lawyer who came out to speak with me at first said there was no case. As he read through the paperwork he started shaking his head and murmuring. He finished reading and handed the papers back to me.
"I am so sorry. We would prosecute him for perjury but you just missed the statute of limitations. There is nothing we can do."
So everybody got away with it but me. I continued to pay when the trigeminal neuralgia association refused to let their membership know about my book, because my experience with Dr. Janetta was included. My inability to write on their Facebook wall was what started me telling you this story, a story I have not told publicly before. Ultimately I was allowed to write on their wall so I mentioned my book there. And here? Here I tell you about Peter Jannetta, Mike Fishbein, Robert Unterberger, Governor Ridge...and me.
(I saw Dr. Janetta at a trigeminal neuralgia association conference about 3 - 4 years ago. I went up to him. "Dr. Jannetta, I wanted to let you know I have had a browlift, 4 facelifts, some of the side of my mouth removed, repeated tarsorrharphies..." He interrupted me. Not with words, but with action. He picked up the newspaper from the chair next to him and began reading it.
He had absolutely no interest in the carnage of my life as a result of his surgery.)