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Settlements Drain Dead Dentist’s Estate, Leaving Out Two Infected Patients

August 20, 1991

LAKE WORTH, Fla. (AP) _ Two more people who contracted the AIDS virus from their dentist settled lawsuits against his estate Monday, leaving virtually nothing for two other infected patients.

Barbara Webb, a retired schoolteacher, and Richard Driskill, a citrus worker, will get $999,999 each from insurance left by Dr. David Acer, said their attorney, Robert Montgomery.

Kimberly Bergalis, near death at her family’s Fort Pierce home, already had received $1 million from Acer’s $3 million insurance policy.

″For all practical purposes the well is dry,″ Montgomery said.

With the settlements for Webb and Driskill, a total of two dollars is left for Lisa Shoemaker of Michigan and John Yecs Jr. of Stuart.

″I was hurt. And I felt almost like a rape,″ Ms. Shoemaker said Monday, the first time she has talked to reporters.

Her attorney, Joel Cronin, who had appealed for cooperation between lawyers for the five patients, said Ms. Shoemaker’s efforts to sue the estate now may be futile.

″It just didn’t make sense. I was hoping that it could be split between all the people that he infected,″ Ms. Shoemaker said.

The five cases linked to Acer are the only ones confirmed in which a health-care provider has infected patients during a medical procedure.

Medical investigators still are baffled about how Acer transmitted the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Acer died of AIDS in September 1990.

Cronin said he learned of the two impending settlements Saturday and called Ms. Shoemaker, 34, at her Bloomfield Township home in suburban Detroit.

″She cried,″ Cronin said. ″She didn’t think it was fair.″

Montgomery wasn’t apologetic Monday, saying he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars representing his clients. He praised the other attorneys and said they should find some way of getting money from Acer estate.

Yecs’ attorney, Joseph Reiter, said he would challenge the settlements and believes Cronin would join him.

″They haven’t heard the last of us on this one. Somebody entered into a side deal that leaves two people out. We’re not going to let that stand,″ Reiter said.

Cronin said he will continue to pursue Ms. Shoemaker’s lawsuit for now, ″just in case″ the settlements fall through or another legal avenue arises. But he said the lawsuit likely will soon become ″an exercise in futility.″

Unlike other former patients, Ms. Shoemaker didn’t also sue CIGNA Dental Health of Florida, the insurance company that referred patients to Acer. She said she had 12 visits with Acer for root-canal work in the last half of 1988 after seeing an advertisement on a magnet that described Acer as ″the painless dentist.″

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