Two prestigious firms sued for overbilling client in record-breaking medical malpractice case.
Connecticut law firms Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder and Day Pitney, along with several of their attorneys, are being
sued for overbilling the D’Attilo family in a medical malpractice lawsuit that resulted in the largest settlement in state history.
The D’Attilos’ lawyers include former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, Joseph Pastore and Christopher Farrell of Pastore & Dailey in Glastonbury, and Howard Altschuler of Bethany, who specializes in legal malpractice cases.
The suit, pending in Superior Court in New Haven, accuses the Koskoff firm of overbilling the D’Attilo family by more than $5 million, in violation of state law.
The suit identifies five Koskoff lawyers as defendants and two lawyers employed by Day Pitney.
“The case is totally without merit,” said Stanley A. Twardy Jr., the state’s former chief federal prosecutor and now a managing partner with Day Pitney.
Previously, Cathy and Domenic D’Attilo filed a complaint with the Statewide Grievance Committee. That probe found no probable cause in the complaint against the Day Pitney lawyers and recommended no discipline of Koskoff or its lawyers.
Nevertheless, Altschuler said Thursday that he’ll be seeking intervention from the state Supreme Court and if that fails, “the state Legislature” in the grievance actions.
“The fee cap is clear,” said Bysiewicz. “If an attorney wants a larger fee, there needs to be a waiver in writing that the clients agree to and sign. Without a properly executed waiver, all attorneys must follow the formula in the law.”
That formula limits the Koskoff firm to $2.6 million for the case, according to Bysiewicz.
The state court suit seeks triple the amount of damages, as well as legal fees and court costs.
“The fees charged and paid all were strictly in accordance with the agreement with the client and the law at the time it was entered,” countered James Horwitz, a managing partner with Koskoff. “It was carefully explained to the family and, additionally, the family had the assistance and advice of independent counsel at the time.”
Anthony Nuzzo Jr., a lawyer representing the Koskoff firm, claims in court papers that Koskoff’s 28 percent fees were negotiated “on the plaintiffs’ behalf by an independent attorney.
A clause in the D’Attilos’ contract with Koskoff calls for binding arbitration to settle any dispute over fees and expenses. Superior Court Judge Matthew Frechette cited that clause and stayed any action on the lawsuit pending the arbitration proceedings.
“When all of the evidence is in, there will be no doubt that the clients understood and agreed to the fees that were charged,” Horwitz said. He added that his firm is “proud of the work we performed for this family, through two full trials, a record breaking jury verdict of $58 million dollars, and a settlement that will take care of their disabled child for the rest of his life.”
The D’Attilos hired the Koskoff firm in March, 2003 to represent them in a medical malpractice suit arising out of the birth of their son, Danny. The problematic birth, which involved a loss of oxygen, is believed to have led to devastating cerebral palsy in the boy, depriving him of the ability to walk, talk or eat on his own.
Following two trials, the D’Attilos and their Koskoff lawyers reached a $25 million settlement with the insurance company representing a doctor and Maternal Fetal Care, P.C., of Stamford. The settlement came while a judgment was on appeal, and was substantially less than the $58.6 million awarded by the family a Waterbury state court jury in May 2011.
Day Pitney was brought in to structure and administer a financial trust fund, and to assist in Probate Court proceedings. The firm was to receive about $65,000 annually in legal fees to oversee the $12.8 million trust fund established for the boy, according to the suit.
The suit charges the defendant lawyers and their firms with a civil conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duties, statutory theft, misrepresentation and fraud as well as other allegations.
Originally posted by Michael P. Mayko on CTPost.com.
Sued For Overbilling – Legal Malpractice Representation – Ball & Evans & Ball & Evans Trial Attorney – Los Angeles