Lawyer Loan Fees Gouge 9/11 Crews


source: NY Post    July 25, 2010

Retired NYPD Emergency Service Unit Sgt. John Boesch, who dug for survivors on 9/11 and worked at least 600 hours in the World Trade Center rubble, received an offer of $3,250, the sum awarded to all plaintiffs with no illness.

But based on his settlement letter, his take after lawyer fees and expenses dwindles to $1,322 — only 40 percent of the total.

Boesch’s legal expenses and fees come to $1,927.81, including $579.94 for “return of interest expense.”

“I don’t know loan sharks who charge that much,” said Boesch, 52, adding that this was the first he heard of such charges.

The bill also tallies $725 in court filing fees — including $420 for a filing that normally costs $210, and $210 for a filing that costs $45.

Boesch said he submitted medical records that he suffered from a gastroesophageal ailment but saw nothing about it in his paperwork. The deal includes an insurance policy for up to $100,000 for six types of cancer, but he’d have to give up his rights ever to sue the city for 9/11-linked illness.

Will he accept? “Absolutely not,” said Boesch, a dad of two teen sons. “If I come down with something and die, it’s my family I want to take care of.”

Paul Napoli, of Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, a law partnership representing more than 9,500 WTC workers, said the firm had to pay extra for Boesch and hundreds of others who filed late claims.

But Boesch was still overcharged $210, Napoli said: “It was a clerical error and entered twice.”

That error also hiked his interest charges by “$200 to $300 at least.” He said the files show no medical records for Boesch.

Boesch asked, “If I was overcharged, how many others were overcharged?”

Napoli said his firm took out loans to finance the six-year litigation at rates of 6 to 18 percent. “We don’t make money on it. We pay it back,” he said.

The state Bar Association says lawyers can bill for interest payments if clients consent in advance. Napoli’s retainer agreement mentions possible financing but gives no specific amount or rate.

“It seems excessive to me,” said Hofstra Law School ethics expert Monroe Freedman. “I think the disclosure should certainly indicate that the interest rate might be as high as 18 percent.”

The Garretson Firm Resolution Group, named by Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to oversee settlement payments, said the judge decides what expenses may be billed to plaintiffs.

“The Garretson firm will confirm that only approved expenses are being charged,” a spokesman said.

At least 95 percent of 10,700 suing WTC workers must “opt in” by Sept. 8 to clinch the city’s $625 million settlement offer, increasing to $712 million if 100 percent agree.

The settlements offered to Ground Zero workers are slashed by a 25% fee to lawyers and other legal expenses. Here’s how it breaks down for retired NYPD Sgt. John Boesch (pictured):

Settlement award: $3,250
> Court filing fees: -$725
> Interest on funds borrowed by law firm: -$579.94
> Share of common plaintiff expenses: -$75.16
> Photocopy/document management: -$53.35
> Postage: -$40.68
> Nurse record review: -$10.15
> Phone: -$2.80
> Use of online court docs: -13 cents
> Law firm’s fee: -$440.60
> Total deductions: $1,927.81
> Net award: $1,322

One Response to Lawyer Loan Fees Gouge 9/11 Crews

  1. Usefulness isn’t just familiarity with the law. Business acumen, understanding of the way a business works and simply being sensitive to the issues faced by our — lest we forget — human clients. This is a good example of how all of those skills, legal and social, come into play.

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