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Nearly eight years after he left his Roseland, N.J., law firm, Robert Baime has won payment of his 14 percent partnership interest. The money will come not from the defunct Ravin, Sarasohn, Cook, Baumgarten, Fisch & Rosen, but from accountants appointed to value his share. Last Tuesday, a Morris County jury awarded Baime $1.061 million in a malpractice suit against Ernst & Young. That is the difference between the $400,000 Ravin Sarasohn paid and the $1.4 million to which Baime says he was entitled under a court order. Baime alleged that Ernst’s negligence delayed resolution of his claim against Ravin Sarasohn until 2000, when the firm’s demise forced him to settle for less. Instead of an independent valuation, the accountants’ report was one-sided and inaccurate, and drastically reduced the value of his interest, Baime contended. Baime had obtained a December 1999 ruling that rejected much of the report and would have allowed him $1.087 million, plus nearly $400,000 in interest. But by the time Ravin Sarasohn’s motion to reconsider was denied in June 2000, the firm was on the rocks. Soon after, Ravin Sarasohn bankruptcy lawyer Michael Sirota told Baime the firm would have to file for bankruptcy if he did not settle, according to Baime’s attorney, Bruce Snyder. Baime would then be relegated to the last-in-line status of an equity holder rather than a creditor. Sirota, a partner with Hackensack’s Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, says he negotiated the settlement with Baime but says the content is confidential. So Baime took the deal but sued Ernst, alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Judge Deanne Wilson threw out the fiduciary claim at trial, reasoning that Ernst’s role as an independent accountant was inconsistent with a fiduciary duty to either party, says Snyder, a partner with Roseland’s Lasser Hochman. McCarter & English partner David Kott, who represents Ernst, did not return a call seeking comment. “Holding us responsible for Mr. Baime’s inability to work his dispute out with his former partners is just not right,” says company spokesman Ken Kerrigan. He adds that he does not know whether Ernst will appeal. Baime, who now lives in Maine, is a partner with Dechert in Boston.

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