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Appellate Court Upholds Denial of “Incompetent” Lawyer’s 6-figure Fee
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Denied!A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that former lawyer Steven F. Goldman should be denied almost $400,000 in fees. Goldman won a $2.4 million medical malpractice case, but was found to have failed to investigate the future needs of his child client, and to have overcharged his client.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the discretion of Eastern District Judge Edward Korman to refuse Goldman’s application for $388,000 in fees.

In a per curiam opinion, the panel said the case was “instructive with respect to the nature of the conduct that may merit the denial [of fees].”


In 2003, Zuhua Chen retained Goldman to represent her and her infant son, David, who suffered severe brain damage and other medical problems at birth that will require ongoing supervision and treatment for the rest of his life.

Goldman obtained a settlement with the hospital and doctors involved. He then filed a stipulation of settlement and infant compromise order directing that he be paid $408,000 in fees and $20,000 in expenses, and that Chen be paid $250,000 for her loss of services claim, and $1.7 million as trustee for her son’s special needs trust.

But Judge Korman found that Goldman negligently failed to provide documentation for his fees, and for the child’s current medical condition and a projection of his expenses for future medical care.

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The judge appointed a special master, attorney Steven North, who found that Goldman “provided for a sliding scale legal fee in excess of the statutory maximum and additionally contained an agreement of doubtful propriety that the client would consent to a one-third fee if the case ‘goes to trial.'”

A frustrated Korman said in February 2005 that he had “never had a case in which the presentation of an infant’s compromise has been so poorly presented by plaintiff’s counsel” and decided to retain his own medical expert. One month later, he appointed a guardian ad litem for David.

The judge said he had “seen lawyers who are small time practitioners who settle slip and fall cases put together an infant’s compromise that is 10 times or 100 times better than this.”

In April 2005, Goldman resigned from the bar during a disciplinary investigation unrelated to the matter before Korman.

Via New York Law Journal. Also, from 2006.



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