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77 former patients sue ex-LI pediatrician over alleged abuse

Stuart Copperman at an event in Dix Hills

Stuart Copperman at an event in Dix Hills in June 2010. Credit: SocietyAllure.com/Rob Rich

Seventy-seven women have filed lawsuits against an ex-Long Island pediatrician who was stripped of his medical license in 2000 following numerous complaints of sexual abuse.

The claims were filed against Stuart Copperman one month before the expiration of a special look-back window provided by the state to allow child victims of sexual assault to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers.

The lawsuits not only name Copperman but also the hospitals and health companies he was affiliated with, including Nassau University Medical Center, North Shore University Hospital, New York University Langone Hospital and Northwell Health.

Two decades ago, Newsday chronicled the case of Copperman, a Merrick pediatrician whose license was revoked after at least six women told a state hearing panel he had molested them as young girls. The complaints covered an 11-year period ending in 1989. No criminal charges were filed.

Formerly, claims of decades-old abuse were barred by statute of limitations laws. But the six original claimants plus dozens more filed the suits under a special look-back period provided by the "Child Victims Act." Enacted in 2019 by state lawmakers, the act gives alleged victims a one-time window — ending Aug. 14 — to file lawsuits.

So far, 6,920 lawsuits have been filed since the window opened.

"These survivors, under New York’s 2019 CVA, can finally seek justice years after they were brutalized and traumatized," said Robert J. Mongeluzzi, an attorney with one of the two firms representing the women, in a statement.

The lawsuits claim Copperman abused his first patient in 1961.

Copperman’s attorney declined to comment Tuesday.

According to the complaints, filed in State Supreme Court in Queens County, Copperman "repeatedly sexually abused and exploited young girls in his exam room."

Kristen Gibbons Feden, the litigants’ main attorney, said Copperman engaged in sexually exploitive behavior even if they were there "seeking treatment of a minor cold, sore throat or hand injury."

"My life has been a horror; an endless nightmare because of Copperman," said Debra Zuckerwise, one of the alleged victims, in a statement released by her law firm.

In December 2000, the New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct revoked Copperman's license after receiving testimony from six women. They said the doctor abused them during physical exams when they were between the ages of 14 and 20, although they all had been his patients since childhood.

Newsday reported at the time the panel cited "the egregiousness" of Copperman’s conduct and "his continued denial of any inappropriate behavior."

Similar charges against him had been dismissed in 1987 by the state Board of Regents, which oversaw medical conduct issues at the time. Later, oversight was transferred to the state Health Department.

Copperman denied any wrongdoing during the medical board proceedings, fought unsuccessfully to retain his license and later moved to Florida. He had operated his practice in his Merrick basement for four decades before losing his license.

The state panel’s action sparked an even greater wave of complaints to the Health Department about the doctor, along with a 2004 episode of NBC's "Dateline."

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