Reacting to combativeness, belittling, and other “reprehensible” conduct by plaintiff’s counsel, Justice Stanley A. Green has reversed a $16 million Bronx jury verdict, in a decision dated last month, in the case of Smith v. Sophia AU, M.D. An article in today’s New York Law Journal provides many of the offending remarks, and notes that the lawyer in question, Thomas A. Moore of Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore, is “one of New York’s top medical malpractice attorneys,” as well as a frequent contributor to NYLJ. (“Verdict Set Aside Over Lawyer’s Conduct,” by Tom Perrotta, 09-18-2003) The “upset” Moore plans to appeal.
Supplemental (09-18-03): George Wallace at Declarations and Exclusions was far more diligent than I was willing to be after midnight last night — he took the time to excerpt some of the juicy quotes from the NYLJ article. Besides thanking him for pointing back to “us,” I have to share with you his wonderfully apt Rhetorical Rule of Thumb:
Rhetorical Rule of Thumb: When an attorney prefaces anything with the phrase “with all due respect,” the odds that a respectful remark will follow decrease rapidly toward zero.
You can find more of such wisdom at D&E and at George’s personal(ity) blog, A Fool in the Forest.
Update (09-19-03): My cyber colleague Carolyn Elefant over at MyShingle has opined today:
“[F]or a judge to penalize innocent clients for their attorneys’ alleged misconduct…well, with all due respect (see George Wallace’s remarks on that phrase) and in the judge’s own words, that’s conduct that is truly “degrading to the institution of the court.”
Well, it is respectfully submitted, that we need to know more about the decision and its procedural context (I could not find the Opinion online), before deciding whether the judge has degraded the court. If the plaintiff’s lawyer engaged in conduct that unduly prejudiced the jury, and the Opinion and resulting order allow a re-trial, perhaps justice will be done (with, for example, a settlement that is fair to all parties, or a new trial). We need to worry (at least a little) about the defendant here. When a plaintiff chooses an “attack dog”-style attorney, he or she might have to live with the consequences.