Legal Ethics

Suit: Law Firm, Medical Clinic Made Reciprocal Referrals

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A Kentucky woman has filed a suit against a law firm and medical clinic that she says both deceived her and deprived her of her right to treatment by her own doctors.

Sharon Langford of Louisville, Ky., went to Tampa, Fla.-based Winters Yonker & Rousselle after she was injured in a car accident in 2008. She says in her suit that the firm told her that her health insurance wouldn’t cover injuries suffered in car accidents, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. She said the firm referred her to 1st Physician Rehabilitation Inc. for treatment and then later to a Florida clinic for surgery.

The suit says Langford later found out that both clinics had the same owner, Gary Kompothecras, who also owns the 1-800-ASK-GARY referral service, which sends callers seeking a lawyer to Winters & Yonker. Kompothecras’ clinics don’t accept health insurance, the Courier-Journal said.

Langford’s lawyer, Sam Carl, said of the $200,000 settlement Winters & Yonker obtained for Langford, the firm received $70,000, the clinics received $64,518, and Langford received $62,738—which covered the medical expenses she incurred before hiring Winters & Yonker, according to the Courier-Journal.

Langford is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and wants Winters & Yonker to forfeit its fee. She says that her medical costs would have been far less if they had been covered by her Humana health insurance policy.

Ethics specialists say such reciprocal referrals violate ethics rules in Kentucky and Florida.

“A lawyer has the obligation to send the client to the best place, not the place from which the lawyer is getting business,” Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet told the Courier-Journal.

A medical director at 1st Physician, Dr. Gregory Bonner, acknowledged in an unrelated lawsuit that the clinic is paid in part based on the size of the settlement that Winters & Yonker wins for clients treated at the clinic, the Courier-Journal reported.

Both Marc Yonker and Gary Kompothecras, through his lawyer, declined to comment to the Courier-Journal.

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