Legal malpractice claim by Naples surgical center alleges law firm filed suit on their behalf without authorization.
In 2010, a Naples surgical center sued United HealthCare in West Palm Beach federal court seeking payment for allegedly unpaid facility fees.
Trouble is the surgical center never authorized the lawsuit and didn’t find out about it until three years after it was filed, according to a lawsuit filed against several lawyers involved in the litigation.
At that point, the plaintiff, the Gladiolus Surgery Center, found itself facing counterclaims alleging fraudulent billing practices. United HealthCare was seeking $29 million, and Gladiolus wound up settling for $2.1 million last November.
Miami attorney Warren Trazenfeld, who specializes in
legal malpractice cases, filed suit against husband-and-wife Miami lawyers Martin and Jane Raskin of Raskin & Raskin and New Jersey law firm Lampf, Lipkind, Prupis & Petigrow last week in Palm Beach Circuit Court. The suit alleges the law firms filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gladiolus Surgery Center without authorization.
Gladiolus is seeking $2.1 million—the amount of the settlement with United HealthCare.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” Trazenfeld said. “When I heard about it, I was amazed that a law firm would file a lawsuit without any contact with the client.”
Andrew Epstein, an attorney with Lampf, Lipkind, Prupis & Petigrow, declined to discuss on the specifics of the case but said: “The firm denies any liability. We have insurance defense counsel handling this. People put stuff in complaints that are not based on facts.”
The Raskins hired Robert Cousins of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer in Fort Lauderdale to defend them.
“The Raskins served as local counsel for a very respected New Jersey firm, and based upon my understanding of the allegations they claim the Raskins were not authorized to represent Gladiolus in the litigation,” Cousins said. “That allegation is categorically unfounded because we have a signed retainer agreement, signed by representatives of Gladiolus.”
Cousins declined to say who signed the retainer agreement, citing the pending litigation.
“The New Jersey attorneys were in constant communication with the client through the litigation,” he said. “We feel the entire case is without merit, and we intend to vigorously defend it.”
The first contact between the Lampf law firm and Gladiolus was on Oct. 17, 2013—two years and 10 months after the lawsuit was filed against United, the lawsuit claims. Raskin & Raskin never had a single communication with Gladiolus.
It was after United HealthCare filed its counterclaim and a motion to dismiss with prejudice that the surgical center learned of the original lawsuit.
“It couldn’t have gone worse for the center,” Trazenfeld said. “It was a nightmare for them.”
Gladiolus hired Fort Lauderdale lawyer James Sawran of McIntosh Sawran & Cartaya and settled the lawsuit for $2.1 million. U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in West Palm Beach granted the motion.
The center recently hired Trazenfeld to sue the law firms in an effort to recoup its losses.
Why would a law firm file an unauthorized lawsuit? The only possible explanation Trazenfeld came up with is that a former minority owner, C2 Medical LLC, owned by Boca Raton residents Edward and Carolyn Liva and their son Christopher, approved it. However, at the time the suit was filed, Trazenfeld said C2 Medical was no longer a minority owner.
The Livas were indicted in Ohio in January 2014 with others on charges of improper medical billing for another company they owned, Physicians Surgical Group LLC of Boca Raton.
The Livas could not be reached for comment by deadline.
In 2014, the Raskin firm filed a motion to withdraw from the case, “falsely implying that it was retained by an authorized representative of Gladiolus in late 2010,” according to the suit. The motion was granted May 15, 2014.
The Lampf firm also filed a motion to withdraw, which was granted Oct. 24, 2014.
The lawsuit against the lawyers alleges the Lampf firm, Stephen Lampf, Martin Raskin and Jane Raskin “breached their duty of care to Gladiolus by failing to communicate with Gladiolus regarding the lawsuit and obtain its authority to file and/or proceed with the lawsuit.”
As a result of the lawyers pursuing the lawsuit “without the knowledge or authorization of Gladiolus, Gladiolus suffered damages because it was placed in a worse position than if the lawsuit had not been filed, and Gladiolus paid United to resolve the suit,” the complaint said.
Trazenfeld said the surgical center is prosperous but took a sizable hit when it was forced to pay the settlement.
“They’re still recovering,” he said.
Originally posted by Julie Kay on DailyBusinessReview.com.
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