A Manhattan judge has slapped the personal injury firm of Morelli Ratner with $6,000 in sanctions for bringing a "spiteful" and "wasteful" suit against a former client. Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman's ruling comes three months after she sharply criticized the firm for launching a "nonsensical" action to recover the costs of an unsuccessful medical malpractice action from Victoria Kremen.
Kremen, who had a double mastectomy after allegedly being misdiagnosed with breast cancer, retained Morelli Ratner, and then sued the firm for legal malpractice, claiming it botched a suit against her doctors. Goodman initially upheld the legal malpractice claim, but was reversed on appeal.
But in October 2008, Goodman excoriated Morelli Ratner for bringing "wasteful" litigation to recoup $6,000 in disbursements spent on Kremen's medical malpractice case. And Tuesday, she fined the firm for waiting until reargument to submit a retainer agreement that was in their control "for years" and "was utterly in contrast to" the firm's position. "There is no possible interpretation under which it could be found that Kremen had contractually agreed to pay those costs ... under the existing conditions," she wrote.
In an interview, David Ratner said that "Justice Goodman is in error as she was when she failed to dismiss the legal malpractice case." He said the firm intended to appeal and was confident the judge would be reversed, as she was in the legal malpractice case. The case is Kremen v. Benedict P. Morelli & Associates, P.C., 101739/06.