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September 15, 2008

Adlerstein Litigation Redux

Posted by Gordon Smith

Adlerstein v. Wertheimer is a favorite for teachers of our book, and Karl Okamoto recently alerted me to the resolution of Joseph Adlerstein's lawsuit against his former law firm, Duane Morris, over a claim of legal malpractice. Dave Hoffman blogged about this lawsuit at Concurring Opinions, and Law.com has the rest of the story:

Joseph K. Adlerstein sued Duane Morris in 2004 after he failed to receive $1.6 million of a $1.8 million settlement with his former company, SpectruMedix. He claimed the firm committed legal malpractice by failing to ensure the settlement agreement included some form of security in the event SpectruMedix didn't pay up.

The case, Adlerstein v. Duane Morris, was filed a year after Duane Morris sued Adlerstein for not paying more than half of his $480,000 legal bill. He had paid the firm $200,000 -- the only portion of the settlement with SpectruMedix he actually received.

Throughout the trial, Duane Morris had argued that it asked SpectruMedix and its then-new Chairman Ilan Reich for security but Reich refused.

Duane Morris' counsel, Nicholas M. Centrella of Conrad O'Brien Gellman & Rohn, said in court that it was Adlerstein's fault for walking away from an earlier settlement agreement that would have guaranteed $800,000 to be paid in five days. He made a second mistake, Centrella had said, when he signed the agreement for the $1.8 million even after he allegedly knew there was no security.

Clifford E. Haines of Clifford E. Haines & Associates represented Adlerstein and argued in court that it was Duane Morris' duty to ensure security or advise Adlerstein that he might be making a bad decision by signing an agreement with no security.

The jurors came back with a 7-to-1 verdict in favor of Duane Morris. Haines said it was the seven women against the one male juror.

The attorneys did get a chance to talk to the jury after the verdict was given. Haines said the jurors seemed to feel that Adlerstein should have understood the terms of the agreement.

"They were troubled by the fact that Dr. Adlerstein had in fact signed the agreement," he said.

At the time of the story (this past February), Adlerstein's attorney was intent on filing appeals, so we may not have seen the end of this case, yet. But I can't find any additional updates online.

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