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Metro Prosthetics' Dennis G. Haun, left and Peter H. Goller, right, with patient Dayton Webber, center. (Courtesy of Metro Prosthetics Inc.)

Prosthetist, former firm fight over clients

Mark Eberhart thought he found a good fit with Dennis G. Haun.

Eberhart lost his left leg above the knee to cancer in 2006 and began seeing Haun, a prosthetist at Maryland Orthotics & Prosthetics Co. Inc. in fall 2011.

“With Dennis, I was starting to have some success,” Eberhart said. “I felt like he was helping me get where I wanted to go.”

But Eberhart has not seen Haun since December 2011 — and on Monday, lawyers for the company will ask a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge to make sure it stays that way.

All told, the company (known as MDOP) seeks to block Haun from seeing 10 patients he worked with before switching to a competitor.

MDOP alleges Haun “perpetuated a fraud” by diverting patients to his new employer, Metro Prosthetics Inc.

“Haun must be precluded from continuing to reap the benefit of his ill-gotten gains,” lawyers for MDOP said in court filings.

Haun denies the allegations, and his lawyers say he was free to compete with MDOP once he left the company.

The plaintiffs “are attempting to ask the court to create a noncompete agreement despite the fact Dennis didn’t sign one,” said Aaron Turner, an associate with Levin & Gann P.A. in Towson.

In addition, MDOP has already received a jury award against Haun and a settlement from Metro Prosthetics, Haun’s lawyers say.

“They’ve been paid for the patients they lost,” said Debra B. Cruz, a principal with Levin & Gann.

In February, a Baltimore County jury found Haun breached his fiduciary duty to MDOP and awarded the company $152,460 in damages following a four-week trial. The jury also found Haun committed fraud but did not award MDOP damages on that count.

Metro Prosthetics, which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, reached a confidential settlement with MDOP prior to trial, Cruz said. Lawyers for Metro will appear in court Monday to challenge the injunction, she added.

Ronald M. Cherry and Jason Engel of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata LLP in Baltimore, Metro’s lawyers, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Howard J. Schulman of Schulman & Kaufman LLC in Baltimore, one of MDOP’s lawyers.

Haun had been with MDOP for a decade when he decided he wanted to branch out and have his own practice, according to Cruz. By the end of 2011, after speaking with other prosthetists, Haun realized he did not have enough money to start his own business, Cruz said, so he decided to go to work for Metro, which has offices in White Marsh and Prince George’s County.

But MDOP’s lawsuit, filed in February 2012, alleges Haun decided to move to Metro in January 2011 and spent the rest of the year “actively and secretly acting as a competitor.”

More than 60 patients followed Haun to Metro, including 15-year-old Dayton Webber, who had been seeing Haun for prosthetic arms and legs since he was 8 years old. Natalie Webber, Dayton’s mother, said in an email that Haun understands her son’s “high activity level,” including hunting, wrestling and dirt-bike riding.

“We have seen several prosthetists since Dayton’s limbs were amputated, and once we met Dennis, we knew it was going to be a great relationship,” Webber said.

Cruz said most patients did not know Haun was leaving MDOP and reconnected with him at Metro on their own. During the trial, patients from as far away as Ohio and North Carolina testified they “would follow Dennis to the moon,” she said.

Haun’s lawyers characterized the close and personal relationship between a prosthetist and amputee to that of an attorney and client or patient and doctor.

Webber agreed.

“When you find one that understands you and has genuine interest in your well-being, you don’t even think of looking for another,” she said. “That is us with Dennis.”

Eberhart, a Northern Virginia resident, has traveled around the country searching for the right prosthetist. A good one blends science with artistry; not Einstein nor Monet but more Da Vinci, he said.

“As an amputee, you’ve got to follow the person, not the company,” he said.

MDOP’s lawyers, in a support of their injunction, say the question is not Haun’s “popularity with his patients” but whether he committed fraud.

“The underlying pattern … is that Dennis Haun targeted, diverted and delayed treatment to 10 key, high-end patients that he cherry-picked so that he would have work in progress and cash flow when he left MDOP,” the court filing states.

Eberhart, in an interview and in court, said Haun told him he was leaving MDOP but not where he was going, let alone ask Eberhart to follow him.

The whole ordeal affected Eberhart mentally and physically, he said, and he no longer sees Haun or MDOP, instead spending a week each summer in Texas meeting with a prosthetist friend.

“Please don’t put me in the middle of this,” Eberhart said Friday of the litigation. “I’m just trying to walk.”