The challenge to a 40 percent contingency fee deal between Graubard Miller and the elderly widow of real estate developer Sylvan Lawrence will continue despite plaintiff Alice Lawrence's death last month.
New York's Court of Appeals had scheduled oral arguments for today under an expedited process when Ms. Lawrence was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Following her Feb. 16 death, the case was stayed as her attorney, Leslie D. Corwin of Greenberg Traurig, seeks to have the two executors of her estate substituted for Ms. Lawrence, who was 83, as plaintiffs in the action.
Corwin said last week he now expects the Court of Appeals to hear arguments in the matter in five to six months under its customary timetable.
Ms. Lawrence was appealing a 4-1 determination by the Appellate Division, 1st Department, that a payment of about $42 million to Graubard Miller under the fee agreement is not unconscionable on its face. The fee was in addition to about $18 million Ms. Lawrence had been billed by the firm for hourly fees over the previous two decades and the $5 million she paid to three partners at the firm in "gifts."
The firm represented Ms. Lawrence in a protracted fight with Mr. Lawrence's brother and business partner Seymour Cohn over the sale of Mr. Lawrence's properties following his death in 1981. Mr. Lawrence amassed real estate holdings estimated at more than $1 billion, including several Wall Street office towers.