Wingate Russotti

Title: In the Matter of WINGATE, RUSSOTTI SHAPIRO, LLP, Respondent, v. FRIEDMAN…

Court: Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department

Case Number: 

Date: Jun 28, 2007

Fact:

In October 2000, Pedro Colon was; driving his truck when he was hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer operated by William Cimasko and owned by Robert Sherwood. Colon suffered serious back and neck injuries requiring lumbar fusion and cervical spinal surgery. After his accident, Colon consulted a New Jersey attorney, Karim Arzadi, who advised him to retain Friedman, Khafif Associates (the Friedman Firm) to represent him in New York. 

Issue:

  • Whether the Friedman Firm is entitled to legal fees for their representation of Colon in his personal injury case after being discharged by him.
  • Whether the Friedman Firm’s actions constitute misconduct warranting forfeiture of their legal fees.

Decision:

  • The court determined that the Friedman Firm had not committed misconduct warranting forfeiture of their legal fees.
  • The Friedman Firm was faulted for failing to file a derivative claim on behalf of Mrs. Colon, but the court found that it was appropriate given the circumstances where Mr. Colon represented himself as single.
  • The court concluded that the Friedman Firm had not entered into a final settlement without Mr. Colon’s consent. The conditional settlement was vacated upon substitution of attorneys, and Mr. Colon’s approval was required before the settlement became effective.
  • The court also found that the failure to timely file a retainer statement with the Office of Court Administration (OCA) was a minor error that did not affect the quality of representation provided to Colon.
  • As there was no evidence of misconduct, the Friedman Firm should not forfeit its legal fees.
  • The Friedman Firm, which had worked on Colon’s case for approximately 3.5 years, is entitled to a percentage of Colon’s recovery based on their retainer agreement.
  • The Wingate Firm, which took over the litigation for a month and enhanced the settlement by $350,000, is entitled to their negotiated share of the additional settlement amount.

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