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LEMON LAW ATTORNEY ESCAPES TIGHT SQUEEZE NEWARK, N.J. — Attorneys who represent owners of defective automobiles trumpet their “no-cost-to-the-client” services, but one of America’s busiest lemon lawyers triggered ethics charges when he appeared to renege on the promise. Though the Disciplinary Review Board ruled on Oct. 30 that Robert Silverman’s fee deal was ethical, the case against him has required niche practitioners to think about how they relate to their clients and the auto companies they sue when it comes to fees. The DRB cleared Silverman of conflict of interest in a case about a defective Dodge Neon, rejecting the District IV Ethics Committee’s finding of an unethical fee-setting process between the carmaker and Silverman’s firm, Kimmel & Silverman of Ardley, Pa., and Haddonfield, N.J. The client, Linda Wagoner, didn’t like the half-fee/half-recovery split of the $4,000 settlement Silverman and Chrysler arranged, and she filed an ethics grievance. Silverman sued her for breach of contract. The district ethics panel agreed with Wagoner and recommended that the state Supreme Court suspend Silverman for 60 days. If the DRB had adopted the finding and agreed the fee deal was unethical, many lemon law attorneys would have had to examine their advertisements and client agreements to clarify the “no-cost-to-you” promises. But the panel ruled unanimously that Silverman’s lemon law arrangement with Chrysler was similar to contingency deals that are permissible. “It is not unusual for attorneys to have an interest in their client’s recovery,” the DRB said. It also was OK that Chrysler, not the client after the recovery, paid the fee. The DRB did, however, reprimand Silverman for starting a frivolous collection case against the client to resolve the fee dispute rather than initiating fee arbitration as required by New Jersey court rules. — The New Jersey Law Journal N.Y. SEEKS TO LIMIT LIABILITY FOR FERRY CRASH NEW YORK — Facing a stack of legal claims from victims of the Oct. 15 Staten Island Ferry crash, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration Monday moved to limit New York City’s liability to $14 million and consolidate all lawsuits before a single federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. In a joint statement with City Comptroller William Thompson, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo also urged victims and their attorneys to engage in settlement talks with the city, saying claims could be solved “expeditiously” and “without the need for litigation.” Attorneys who represent victims and families of the crash at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, which killed 10 people and injured more than 70, assailed the city’s move, saying it was an effort to derail lawsuits with outdated and seldom-used maritime laws. “In one breath they are saying they want to avoid litigation and want to be fair, but by filing for limitation, they are saying they want to shortchange the victims,” said Anthony Bisignano of Bosco Bisignano & Mascolo, a Staten Island firm that is representing 20 claimants so far. “That is a paltry amount to be shared by all the people who were injured or are family members of the deceased.” For the city to win a limitation of its liability, it will have to prove that only the ferry’s crew, and not supervisors, were to blame for the circumstances that led to the accident, according to maritime expert Paul Edelman of Kreindler & Kreindler. Bisignano and other attorneys said the city would have a difficult time proving this in light of questions being raised about the ferry’s operating procedures and safety rules. — The New York Law Journal

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