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A lawyer who is suffering from breast cancer sued her former firm last week, claiming they failed to pay her $1.7 million she earned representing New York City in its litigation against the tobacco industry. The firm, New York’s Storch Amini & Munves, received $8 million for its work representing New York City, which received $6.5 billion as its share of the $206 billion nationwide settlement negotiated with the tobacco industry. In the lawsuit, which was filed last Thursday in State Supreme Court in New York County, Janis L. Ettinger claimed that the firm had paid her only $300,000 of the $2 million it had promised for her work on the tobacco case. In late September, after medical tests revealed that her cancer had metastasized, Ettinger charged in the complaint that she was told the firm would not pay her further for her work on the tobacco case because “she could not realistically be a part of the future of Storch Amini by virtue of her illness.” In a statement issued Friday, the firm asserted that Ettinger “has never been an equity holder in the firm and we have kept all of our promises to her.” The statement called Ettinger’s claims “without merit,” and asserted she remains “a long-term employee of our firm” who continues to receive salary and benefits. The firm expressed “great personal sympathy” for her. Ettinger’s complaint names two lawyers at the firm as defendants: Steven G. Storch, who is described as the president of the professional corporation, and Bijan Amini, who is said to be an officer. Ettinger described herself as a “shareholder-employee.” Jerry Migliore, a spokesman for the firm, said it has two partners, and declined to answer further questions. The online version of Martindale-Hubbell lists five “members” of the firm, including Ettinger, three associates and three “of counsel.” The firm is described as having a general civil practice, including litigation, trade secrets, bankruptcy and probate. Ettinger, 43, who was an associate at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan for about seven years, joined Storch Amini in 1994. Stroock & Stroock, which is representing her in the litigation, took the unusual step of having all 18 partners in its litigation department sign the complaint, said Joel Cohen, a senior litigator at Stroock. The reason, Cohen said, is that “the firm is “extremely disturbed at what happened to [Ettinger].” The complaint asserted that Storch Amini secured a role in representing New York City in the tobacco litigation because of her “reputation for competence and integrity,” and because the firm had promised lawyers at the Corporation Counsel’s Office that she would have “a heavy involvement” in the matter. Storch Amini was brought into the litigation as local counsel by the South Carolina firm of Ness Motley Loadholt Richardson & Poole, New York City’s lead counsel. Pursuant to its agreement with Ness Motley, Storch Amini was to receive 40 percent of any amount awarded as fees. In December 2000, Ness Motley and Storch Amini agreed to accept $20 million from the industry as the result of a mediation process provided for in the 1998 nationwide settlement. Storch Amini’s 40 percent share of the settlement was $8 million. Ettinger’s complaint does not specify whether the agreement that would entitle her to $2 million was in writing. Rather, she asserts that she had an agreement, presumably oral, with the firm that she would get two-thirds of what each Storch and Amini received from the award. Given that the total award was $8 million, that would lead to an allocation of $3 million each to Storch and Amini and $2 million to Ettinger, two-thirds of the other two lawyers’ payments, the complaint said. Ettinger’s lawsuit is the second legal battle to develop between attorneys who once worked on the same side of the tobacco case. LIAPAKIS’ SUIT Pamela Liapakis, a former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is suing her former firm, now known as Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, for one-third of the $98.4 million it reportedly received for its work as counsel for New York state in the tobacco litigation. Liapakis, who left the firm in a rancorous dispute in 1999, claimed she is entitled to her one-third share under the separation agreement she negotiated with the firm. But the firm’s senior partner, Robert G. Sullivan, said Friday in an interview that the firm was not obligated to pay Liapakis because she had breached the agreement.

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