NEW YORK – A reclusive copper heiress' estate is seeking more than $100 million from a doctor and a hospital where she spent two decades, furthering a fight over her fortune after a feud over her disputed will was resolved.
Dr. Henry Singman and Beth Israel Medical Center were less dedicated to Huguette Clark's welfare than their own, says a lawsuit filed Thursday by the public administrator's office, a local government entity that represents the estate of Clark, whose father was a Montana copper baron and founded Las Vegas.
"Beth Israel abandoned its duties and responsibilities when it learned that a very rich patient was in its eye," and Singman "placed his own interests above those of his patient," the lawsuit says.
Singman's lawyer, Harold L. Schwab, called the lawsuit "outrageous." The hospital's lawyer, Lawrence Fox, declined to comment.
Clark died at Beth Israel at age 104 in 2011, leaving no close relatives and a roughly $300 million estate.
She had glorious homes in New York, Connecticut and California but had lived in the hospital since 1991, though she didn't need its care most of that time.
Distant relations raised concerns about gifts Clark had lavished on those around her, including more than $4 million to the hospital, more than $800,000 to Singman and his family and about $31 million to her main private-duty nurse, court papers say. The nurse isn't among those being sued in the newly filed case.
The questions deepened as it emerged that Clark had signed two very different wills within six weeks in 2005. The first mainly benefited her distant kin; the second cut them out.
A September settlement in the will fight largely benefited arts charities and the relatives. It left a door open to further court action over gifts doled out during Clark's life.
The new lawsuit says the hospital and Singman let Clark stay -- violating regulations that require discharging patients once they no longer need treatment -- to extract presents from her.
It also faults Singman for not having Clark undergo psychiatric evaluation and says he and others violated hospital policies against employees accepting personal gifts.
The hospital, Singman and others who tended to Clark have long maintained she was mentally sharp, if eccentric, and lived and gave as she desired.
Singman was unaware of any gift policy, wasn't a hospital employee part of the time in question and provided care that helped Clark live as she chose, his lawyer said Thursday.
"The concept that Dr. Singman did something improper, in any way whatsoever, is absolutely absurd," Schwab said.
Any money recovered would be split among Clarks' relatives and arts institutions.