This is a legal malpractice on a legal malpractice arising from a matrimonial case. Apparently the client went to a malpractice attorney before her matrimonial action was over, and then was disadvantaged because the matrimonial attorney would not give up the file.
Stife and litigation ensued between W.Robert Curtis and David Bushman then battled over whether the client owed her matrimonial attorney about $ 28,000 in fees.
The bizarre special referee’s hearing lasted for weeks, ending with a finding that the matrimonial attorney had suborned perjury, and with Curtis unsuccessfully asking for about $ 400,000 in fees.
The result? It seems that everyone loses. The matrimonial attorney doesn’t get paid and is found to have suborned perjury. Curtis doesn’t get paid. The client apparently did not get custody of her children.
Here are some experts from the story:
A special referee has rejected a claim for $373,000 in legal fees for unusual and contentious litigation stemming from a divorce proceeding in Westchester.
“The referee, James A. Montagnino, said that W. Robert Curtis, an attorney in Manhattan, had created work for himself, and headache for his client, by failing to advise her that it would be “improvident” to sue her former divorce attorney for malpractice before the attorney had given the woman’s file to her new matrimonial lawyer.
The malpractice suit put the client, Janet T. Callaghan, in conflict with her former divorce attorney, Allan J. Berke. Mr. Berke refused to give up the file and sought $28,000 in fees. The dispute resulted in a quantum meruit hearing that lasted 28 days and ended with Special Referee Montagnino rejecting Mr. Berke’s claim for fees, after the referee found that Mr. Berke had suborned perjury from Ms. Callaghan. (See NYLJ, Feb. 17, 2004).”
“Mr. Bushman said he is handling that dispute for a flat fee and is suing Mr. Curtis for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty on the agreement that he will receive a standard percentage of whatever he wins. He said he also represents three other former clients of Mr. Curtis, and pointed out several cases in which Mr. Curtis or his firm had been sanctioned.”