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A $20 million legal malpractice suit filed by the family of a postal worker who was killed in the 2001 anthrax attacks was reinstated last week after the D.C. Court of Appeals found that the suit contained sufficient allegations to meet the pleading requirements. Joseph Curseen Jr. died in October 2001 after inhaling anthrax in a letter mailed to then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Shortly after his death, Curseen’s widow, Celestine, hired Buchanan Ingersoll partner Steven Hilton to assist in legal matters arising from the loss of her husband. But according to allegations contained in Celestine Curseen’s malpractice suit, Hilton and the firm had a conflict of interest in representing Curseen’s estate and failed to recognize that Curseen had valid legal claims against both the hospital that treated her husband and the U.S. Postal Service. D.C. Superior Court Judge John Campbell dismissed the malpractice suit in February 2005. Curseen’s current counsel, Alan Rifkin of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, declined to comment on the malpractice suit, but said it was filed simultaneously with a parallel medical malpractice suit because of statute of limitations issues. Lori Lecker, a spokesperson for Buchanan Ingersoll, said in a statement that the firm undertook “limited tasks” as a public service to Curseen and performed those tasks well. “It’s unfortunate that trying to do the right thing by helping someone resulted in such a frivolous lawsuit,” Lecker said.
Bethany Broida can be contacted at [email protected].

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