The settlement is still in the works and may be confidential.
Our client's teen son was accidentally killed by his cousin (who was playing with a gun) at the cousin's parentsâ€™ home. The parents refused to take responsibility for the death of the teen maintaining that it was not their fault. Lawsuit was commenced. The parents' homeowners' insurance carrier refused to defend the cousin and his brother (who brought gun into the home). The carrier contended that the death was intentional (one of many excuses by insurance companies for refusing to pay a valid claim). We then sued the carrier. The case was dragged on for an additional 1 and 1/2 year because of the carrier's steadfast quest to avoid liability. In the midst of the case, the carrier made an offer to resolve the case, an offer that is insulting to anyone who lost a child. Two judges in case offer their thoughts on how much the carrier should pay for the death. Their suggestions were similar to the offer made by the carrier. All of these suggestions were rejected. The carrier then dragged both families into trial, indifferent to any human emotions and anger of re-living the death of their teenage son, despite our repeated attempts to the carrier to accept that the killing as an accident and pay the entire policy. They refused! At trial, after introducing numerous law enforcement officers as witnesses, family members, dozens of pictures of the decedent, and two days before the jury was to issue a verdict, the carrier offered the entire amount of the policy to the teen's parents. They jury would have likely returned a verdict higher than the policy limit. Once again, an example of another insurance company traditional method of resolving a claim by choosing human suffering over profit. Had we listened to the judges and other lawyers, the case would have been settled for far less than the policy amount. However, we were steadfast in our belief in the cause of the case, and rejected all of these suggest suggestions.
Homeowner v. Large Cabinet Manufacturer
Apr 14, 2009
Settled After Extensive Motion Practice
This is a consumer fraud case in Bergen County, New Jersey which was settled by confidential agreement in April 2009. It is a rather small case, but worth noting here. Homeowners purchase kitchen cabinets from home improvement contractor (HIC). Homeowners agreed to have the HIC purchase the cabinets from large cabinet manufacturer and install them. The cabinets and installation costs about $17,000. After the cabinets were installed, the homeowners refused to pay the balance of the contract (about $11,000) claiming that the cabinets were defective. The HIC then sued the homeowners in the Special Civil Part of the Superior Court. The homeowners retained a large law firm and an attorney who charged them $3000 as an initial fee at an hourly rate of $420 per hour for a case in which the balance of the purchase price was only $11,000. That attorney filed an answer with a counterclaim alleging violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). The firm was working on a settlement whereby the homeowners would put up the balance of the money owed ($11,000) into an escrow, and the HIC would them replace some cabinet doors. After paying $3000, the homeowners fired that firm and retained our firm.
We reviewed the case and accepted it with no money from the client. We enter into a retainer agreement whereby the clientâ€™s legal fees ($245 per hour) would be paid if the case is settled and funds are received from the other side. Most attorneys do not take these types of cases without a retainer deposit. But we were confident in the case and the high likelihood that our legal fees would be paid from funds received.
After reviewing the case, we concluded that the CFA was violated by the contractor. In addition, we concluded that the manufacturer of the cabinets may have also violated the CFA with respect to supplying defective cabinets. Consequently, we filed a motion to transfer the case from the Special Civil Part to the Law Division, which has no monetary limit for recovery. The motion was granted over the vigorous opposition of the HIC. We then filed a motion to file a more expansive answer and counterclaim than the one filed by the prior larger law firm. Subsequently, after a brief period of discovery, we filed a well researched and lengthy brief for summary judgment â€“ asking the court to declare that the CFA was violated by the defendants. After the brief was filed, the cabinet manufacturer and the HIC entered into negotiation with our firm. A settlement agreement was finally reached. In that settlement, the homeowners did not have to pay the balance of the $11,000, did not have to return the cabinets, and in addition, the homeowners received an additional $5000 on top of all that. Moreover, the cabinet makers and the HIC paid us a portion of our attorneysâ€™ fees. While we lost thousands of dollars in attorneysâ€™ fees litigating the case, we were thrilled to have the case concluded in the way it did- the client did not have to pay the $11,000 balance, paid us no money, got to keep the cabinets, and in addition got an extra $5000 on top of all that. The prior law firm had an agreement to charge them $420 per hour win or lose.
There is a lesson in this case. It has been my experience that the size of the firm does not matter much in many cases. When you hire an attorney, you hire a lawyer and not the firm. While we normally do not directly charge the client in CFA cases, if we do, an hourly fee of $420 per hour would be extremely high for a case in which someone is suing for only $11,000, irrespective of whether the attorney has 10 years or 30 years of experience. We spent in excess of 130 hours on the case. Had that attorney charged $420 per hour, his fees would have been $54,600. For a case in which only $11,000 was at stake that charge would have been preposterous.
John Doe v. Large Insurance Company
Bad Faith Lawsuit - Settlement
Large Insurer refused to pay an automobile theft claim, alleging that client committed fraud, based on a report of its "expert" that vehicle was moved only with the assigned key. Had the pay the claim, they would have to pay the client only about $12,000. Instead, the settlement was $120,000.
Ayad v. Bank of America (as successor to Fleet Bank
Lawsuits & Disputes
Jury found that Bank of America, as successor to Fleet Bank, committed an unconscionable commercial practice in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act for failing to pay the plaintiffs $27,000 in two CDs and failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry as to the missing CDs when it took over Fleet. Bank of America was liable for reasonable attorneys fees