Anthony Lin of the NYLJ writes:
"A Manhattan judge has denied a lawyer’s request for additional fees from a $3.75 million medical malpractice settlement, ruling instead that the lawyer had already taken more than he was entitled to.
Norman L. Cousins represented Kevin Veneski in a 1997 suit against Queens-Long Island Medical Group over Mr. Veneski’s 1996 stroke, which had left him disabled and unable to work. The matter settled in 2002 for a $3 million lump sum and an annuity yielding $750,000 over the next 20 years.
The retainer agreement provided that Mr. Cousins would receive 30 percent only of the first $250,000 of recovery, with his share shrinking to 10 percent of any amount over $1.25 million.
But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler (See Profile) ruled in a Feb. 2 decision that Mr. Cousins had already billed and received attorney’s fees of around $948,000, almost one-third of the lump-sum portion of the settlement.
As a result, "the court concludes that Cousins owes Veneski, at a minimum, approximately $513,000 that he has received over and above the statutorily permitted amount," the judge wrote in Veneski v. Queens-Long Island Medical Group, 100011/98. Mr. Cousins had moved for additional fees on the grounds that the expense and length of the litigation had forced him to file for bankruptcy. He claimed he had been forced to resort to predatory lenders to finance the case, accumulating almost $700,000 in interest charges on around $500,000 in principal.