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Judge weighs in on suit against ex-pediatric dentist

Dr. Howard S. Sneider closed office, surrendered license earlier this year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The case against a former pediatric dentist accused of abusing children moved out of the streets and before a judge Monday.

The attorney for Howard S. Schneider asked the judge to dismiss a potential class action lawsuit against him and to issue sanctions against the attorney who filed it. But after hearing from both sides, Judge Kevin Blazs allowed the suit to continue if some inflammatory language is removed.

Dozens of parents and former patients began coming forward in April with allegations of abuse and neglect from Schneider, who for decades ran a dental clinic on University Boulevard North. They claimed he intentionally abused his patients and did unnecessary work in the name of profit.

The state of Florida opened an investigation into his Medicaid billing that amounted to more than $5 million over the last five years.

About about a month of daily protests outside his practice, an online petition that drew more than 78,000 supporters, and local, state and national news converge, Schneider relinquished his license and closed his practice for good.

Schneider's attorney, Richard Ramsey, claims that attorney for many of the dentists' accusers, Gust Sarris, wrongly filed the suit.

"Anybody who's injured by a dentist or physician has a right to bring a claim, but there has to be due process it is filed," Ramsey said. "There are procedures are in place. People can't be defaming other people improperly and our courts. It is not permitted, and that's what my primary argument was today."

Among the claims in the lawsuit are that Schneider is "a pathological sadist" with a "psycho-sexual disorder."

"I have never in 28 years seeing a complaint with these types of personal attacks," Ramsey said. "Horrible, vicious comments that are being made about this dentist who is entitled to his day in court if, in fact, a valid lawsuit is brought against him."

Attorney Gust Sarris represents nearly 100 plaintiffs who brought the suit.

"We will see the things that I have alleged in the complaint will come out to be true and that this case will proceed," Sarris said.

While Sarris stands behind the lawsuit as filed, he agreed to change the complaint at the judge's request.

"All you have to do is alleged the necessary facts without inflammatory language, and then you don't have these problems," Blazs said.

Blazs told both attorneys they had 10 days to submit written opinions on why the lawsuit should or shouldn't be dismissed.