77 former patients sue ex-LI pediatrician over alleged abuse

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

The claims were filed against Stuart Copperman a month before the expiration of a special review window provided by the state to allow underage 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.

Twenty years ago, Newsday wrote the case of Copperman, a Merrick pediatrician whose license was revoked after at least six women told a state hearing that he had harassed them as young girls.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

In the past, claims of decades-old abuse were barred by statute of limitations. But the six original plaintiffs and dozens more filed the lawsuits under a special review period provided for by the Child Victims Act. The law, passed by state lawmakers in 2019, 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 can finally seek justice under New York’s 2019 CVA, years after being mistreated and traumatized,” Robert J. Mongeluzzi, an attorney at one of the two companies representing the women, said in a statement.

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The lawsuits allege that Copperman abused his first patient in 1961.

Copperman’s lawyer declined to comment on Tuesday.

According to the complaints filed with the state Supreme Court in Queens County, Copperman “repeatedly sexually abused and exploited young girls in his examination room.”

Kristen Gibbons Feden, the litigants’ lead attorney, said Copperman engaged in sexually exploitative behavior even when they were there “seeking treatment for a minor cold, sore throat, or hand injury.”

“My life has been an abomination, an endless nightmare because of Copperman,” said Debra Zuckerwise, one of the alleged victims, in a statement from her law firm.

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

Newsday reported at the time that the panel called “the egregiousness” of Copperman’s conduct and “his continued denial of inappropriate conduct.”

Similar charges against him had been dismissed in 1987 by the state council of regents, which oversaw behavioral medical problems at the time. Later supervision was transferred to the Ministry of Health.

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

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

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