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Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Judge fines chiropractor
for filing phony lawsuit

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- Circuit Judge George Masuoka has ordered Kauai chiropractor Brian O'Brien to pay more than $40,000 in fines, fees and attorney's costs for filing a phony lawsuit against Kauai County.

Masuoka stopped just short of fining his lawyer, Kauai and Maui attorney Theresa Tico. Instead, he verbally blistered her from the bench.

"Miss Tico, the court can look at this in two ways," the judge said at the end of a hearing on Monday. "Either you were very naive bordering on being stupid in your handling of this case or very deceptive. I choose to think you were the first and that is why I am not sanctioning you."

Masuoka asked Tico, without directly accusing her, whether she concealed evidence that would have been helpful to the county in opposing her client. She said she didn't believe it was relevant to the case.

O'Brien sued the Kauai County Public Works Department for negligence, claiming the failure to clean up mud on the road caused him to have a car accident in 1994.

The case went to trial in March and the jury found in favor of the county.

Sam Blair, a private attorney hired by the county, told Masuoka that O'Brien has a history of filing false claims and in 1998 was fined $10,000 for repeatedly filing phony workers' compensation claims on behalf of clients and billing the state for treatment that never was provided.

Blair said O'Brien never reported the car accident to Kauai police and did not receive treatment from a Kauai doctor.

Blair said O'Brien's claim of $408,000 in lost income because of the auto accident had no basis, particularly since he did not renew his chiropractor's license last year, nor did a $19,000 medical bill O'Brien wanted the county to pay.

"This case has a pattern of an intense intention to deceive," Blair told the judge.

Masuoka ordered O'Brien to pay an $11,000 fine, reimburse the county $15,000 for Blair's attorney fees and pay all the costs to the county for depositions and expert witness fees, which have not been calculated. The total is expected to be more than $40,000.

Tico offered no explanation for going forward with the case. At Monday's hearing she asked Masuoka for permission to withdraw as O'Brien's counsel and asked permission to hire an attorney for herself, both of which were denied.

She did not return a call seeking comment yesterday and O'Brien said he could not comment unless he consulted with Tico.

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