Latest Feld lawsuit alleges fraud and negligence by nurse

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 25, 2010

For the past week, former District gossip columnist and socialite Karen Feld has sat next to her attorney in D.C. Superior Court with her ever-present red toy poodle Campari in a large black leather carrying bag at her feet, popping his head up each time she grabbed the bag.

Feld, of Northwest Washington, is in court fighting her one-time private nurse and home-care companion Inger Sheinbaum, whom she is suing for about $1.5 million, alleging fraud and negligence. Feld claims Sheinbaum lied about her qualifications as a registered nurse in the District. Sheinbaum, 61, of Vienna, denies the allegations.

Feld, whose family's Feld Entertainment owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, is no stranger to court battles. She has had a legal dispute with her brother, Kenneth, since their father Irvin Field's will cut her out of the family business more than 25 years ago.

Last year, Feld sued her brother, claiming he failed to manage the family trust. In 2008, Feld filed a lawsuit accusing her brother of hiring bodyguards to beat her after she was removed from her aunt's shiva service in 2007. Both cases are pending.

In her latest suit, Feld, 62, says Sheinbaum failed to perform her duties when she hired the nurse to provide round-the-clock care while she recovered from a January 2008 brain surgery.

The lawsuit says Sheinbaum was "away . . . at many critical junctures."

It also alleges that Sheinbaum allowed "unauthorized" men to enter Feld's hospital room, leaving Feld fearful because she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the 2007 beating.

Sheinbaum, who worked for Feld for a week, quit after Feld allegedly attacked her during a profanity-laced rant. Feld's rant was triggered by seizures, said her attorney, Steve Oster.

Sheinbaum's attorney, Dwight Murray, called Feld's suit unfounded.

Feld insisted to Judge Anita Josey-Herring that her poodle has to be at her side at all times because he is trained to sense her seizures.

Lawyers are to present closing arguments Thursday. The case already has left an impression with the judge.

"You all have been very interesting, that I will say, from the beginning," Herring said.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this article.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company