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Legal Ethics

Lawyer Won $2.4M for Client, But Should Get No Attorney Fee, 2nd Circuit Says

Posted Jan 7, 2009 4:03 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In what the 2nd Circuit describes in a written opinion as a close case, the appeals court has upheld a lower court decision to award no attorney fee to a former New York lawyer who won a $2.4 million settlement for his client in a medical malpractice case.

Because Steven Goldman didn't adequately document either the basis of his eventual $388,000 fee request (it was initially higher) or the nature of his minor client's ongoing medical problems and future need for treatment, a trial judge acted within his discretion when he refused to approve any legal fee whatsoever, the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held in a written opinion released Monday.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York oversaw the settlement. He described the information provided by Goldman as "totally unhelpful," and wound up appointing both a special master and a medical expert to help him determine how to resolve the case, reports the New York Law Journal.

However, attorney Arnold DiJoseph, who represents Goldman, said the 2nd Circuit decision is troubling.

"I find it very disturbing that an attorney who obtained damages of $2.4 million versus Martin Clearwater & Bell, one of the top malpractice defense firms in the state of New York, right after examinations before trial, isn't getting a penny," he tells the legal publication. "Nobody is even arguing that the result he obtained wasn't satisfactory. He isn't getting any fees because he made a mistake and that somehow got transformed into how he was trying to steal $20,000 from a brain-damaged baby."

Goldman has since resigned from the New York bar to resolve an unrelated attorney disciplinary matter, the legal publication notes.

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