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Drop Stanley Rosenblatt’s name around Miami and many people recognize him as the man who brought Big Tobacco to its knees, first on behalf of flight attendants, then on behalf of Florida smokers. But mention Peter Schwedock, and many might be hard-pressed to place the name. Rosenblatt and wife Susan are best known as having taken on America’s cigarette makers single-handedly. But Schwedock says that had he not been the first to refer those flight attendants to the Rosenblatts, the two lawyers never would have collected $49 million in attorney fees and expenses. Schwedock says he is entitled to a piece of the pie. Today, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson Jr. is scheduled to hear arguments on whether Schwedock has a case. In December, Circuit Judge Robert Kaye, who presided over both tobacco suits brought by the Rosenblatts, said he didn’t. The dispute between Schwedock and the Rosenblatts erupted in October. That’s when Schwedock sued the Rosenblatts, claiming that they broke a written contract requiring the husband-and-wife legal team to give Schwedock a portion of the money. The millions they received were part of a historic agreement that also required Big Tobacco to pay $300 million to fund a research foundation. Schwedock says there would never have even been a class action had he not introduced the Rosenblatts to the lead plaintiff, Norma Broin. Broin, an American Airlines flight attendant turned anti-tobacco zealot, met Schwedock years ago while he was helping flight attendants win workers’ compensation claims. Schwedock says he was representing flight attendants who had been grounded because they had been suffering from severe sinus problems — the apparent result of inhaling secondhand smoke in the days when smoking was allowed aboard airliners. The flight attendants were angry because they were not being paid for their sick days. “That’s how I first got involved in secondhand smoke,” Schwedock said. “Then I started thinking about a class action.” But when Schwedock met Broin, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, he says, he knew he had something really big. “She was the catalyst,” Schwedock said. So, Schwedock, who had worked with the Rosenblatts in the past, introduced them to Broin. Broin had become a spokeswoman in the anti-secondhand smoke movement and her name also was known in the airline industry. With Broin as a plaintiff, Schwedock said he convinced the Rosenblatts to put together what eventually became a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Big Tobacco on behalf of some 60,000 other flight attendants, said David Goodwin, an attorney with Akerman Senterfitt in Miami who represents Schwedock. But Schwedock’s involvement didn’t end there. Goodwin claims his client also provided the Rosenblatts with “critically important” information on flight attendants that allowed the attorneys to build an army of plaintiffs for their lawsuit. “The press release that went out after the complaint was filed [in 1991] started out saying that Stanley Rosenblatt and Peter Schwedock have filed an historic lawsuit. Schwedock was listed as co-counsel,” Goodwin said. But in court papers, the Rosenblatts claim that Schwedock wasn’t all that involved in the case, which dragged on for seven years. Furthermore, they claim that the contract they signed with Schwedock, Broin and her husband, Mark Elroy Broin, is “incomplete in that it fails to provide for any particular attorney’s fee or division of fees.” Stanley Rosenblatt declined to comment for this article. Schwedock admits the contract was left blank, but it was because “Stanley said, ‘I will take care of you.’ “ Besides, he notes, Stanley Rosenblatt’s signature is on the contract, as is the Broins’. But the Rosenblatts claim that Schwedock should have spoken up in 1998 when the settlement agreement was being approved by the court, not a year later. “At no time during the proceedings … did the plaintiff ever file or submit any request for payment of attorneys fees in connection with services he allegedly rendered in the flight attendant class action,” wrote Rosenblatt in a motion to dismiss the suit against him. The claim for fees, he wrote in his motion, “was clearly an after thought.” The Rosenblatts allege that had the plaintiffs known of such a claim, they might not have approved the deal and they have since filed affidavits opposing any referral fee. Goodwin claims his client had no obligation to speak out during the settlement agreement talks because his deal was with the Rosenblatts, not with the flight attendants. “The point is, the deal was the deal,” he said. “When the monies were finally paid in the fall of 1999 to Mr. Rosenblatt, Mr. Schwedock went over there to get his portion of the fee and Mr. Rosenblatt stonewalled him.” Last November, the Rosenblatts took their concerns about Schwedock’s claim to Kaye, who oversaw the settlement agreement. The judge first agreed with Goodwin, noting that the dispute was between his client and the Rosenblatts and therefore belonged before Wilson, who was assigned to the case. But less than a month later, Kaye reversed himself and denied Schwedock’s request, saying it was “untimely” and “an unenforceable and invalid claim.” “For one judge to cross division lines is shocking,” Goodwin said. In his motion to vacate Kaye’s ruling, Goodwin argues his client’s claim is the result of “a valid Florida Bar approved contract for legal services signed by Peter Schwedock, signed by the Broins and signed by Stanley M. Rosenblatt.” The only link to the class-action case, argues Goodwin, “was made by the Rosenblatts through their rhetoric, imagination and unwillingness to share their enormous fee.”

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