Craig Yankwitt ()
A former partner at the high-powered plaintiff’s firm of Silver, Golub & Teitell in Stamford is suing his former colleagues, claiming that he was fired while he was on disability leave and being treated for brain cancer.
Craig Yankwitt, 39, worked at Silver Golub for just over 10 years. He was a partner for the final three.
On July 31, 2012, Yankwitt was diagnosed with brain cancer. By May 2013, he had taken a leave of absence. According to Yankwitt’s lawyers, the law firm voted Yankwitt out of his partnership in April 2014. The plaintiffs lawyers say the firm sent Yankwitt a letter informing him of the vote, and told him the decision was made because he was disabled.
Yankwitt soon filed a lawsuit against his old firm and five of its partners: Richard Silver, David Golub, Ernest Teitell, Angelo Ziotas and Peter Dreyer. He is seeking $15 million in damages, of which $9 million would be for allegedly violating disability laws.
The 12-count complaint alleges such claims as breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress
“I think it’s a shame that Craig Yankwitt is forced to litigate against his former partners rather than focus his remaining time on his health, family and in particular his infant son,” said one of Yankwitt’s attorneys, David Schaefer, of Brenner, Saltzman & Wallman in New Haven. Rowena Moffett, of the same firm, as well as Yankwitt’s father, George Yankwitt, a New York attorney, are also representing the plaintiff.
The lawyers declined to discuss further details about Yankwitt’s medical condition or the merits of their lawsuit.
Silver, Golub & Teitell is being defended by James Fogarty, of Fogarty, Cohen, Selby & Nemiroff, in Greenwich.
David Golub, one of the named defendants, issued a statement: “This is a very sad situation. Craig was our partner for a year and a half before his diagnosis—and our friend. We responded with compassion to his illness in many ways, personally and financially. At his request, we worked out a special arrangement so that he would receive disability income of $300,000 per year and an additional $1 million. A year later, he’s inexplicably decided that we owe him $15 million.”
According to court documents, Yankwitt underwent major surgery for a malignant brain tumor in August 2012. The surgery was not entirely successful and, as a result, there is a considerable risk of the cancer recurring or getting worse.
The firm claims Yankwitt returned to work in the fall of 2012. In the ensuing months, Silver Golub’s lawyers say, he began experiencing complications from his illness, including numerous seizures associated with the stress of trying to work just part time. The firm said it then became clear to Yankwitt and the other partners that he was unable to keep working. He stopped in the spring of 2013. His doctor certified that he was totally disabled.
That same spring, according to Yankwitt, the firm decided to pay him $1,065,000 for money owed from 2013. The firm paid out $500,000 of it in lump sum. A few months later, the firm notified Yankwitt that it would pay only $235,000 more, according to the lawsuit.
But Yankwitt alleges that the firm was required to make monthly disability payments to him, per his partnership contract, in the amount of $31,250. He claims the firm stopped making those payments by November 2013.
Yankwitt then hired a lawyer and threatened to pursue legal action. The firm then paid him an additional $37,500, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further contends that David Golub told Yankwitt that the law firm could get the doctor that diagnosed his cancer to say “whatever we want him to say” in order to enable the firm to avoid having to make the monthly disability payments under the partnership agreement. The lawsuit further claims that Golub and partner Paul Slager said the firm would “dissolve” before paying him $31,250 per month in disability compensation.
The firm denies these comments in court documents. “Mr. Yankwitt is lashing out through anger and frustration over his illness, and making preposterous factual and legal claims against his former colleagues and close friends,” wrote Fogarty.
The firm tells a different story of what happened leading up to his termination. Silver Golub partners claim that in March 2014, after meeting twice with a senior firm partner to discuss possible resolution of the dispute, Yankwitt wrote “a series of angry emails, setting forth a series of demands and a litany of claims he would bring against the firm unless it agreed to his demands,” Fogarty wrote in court documents.
The document states that several of Yankwitt’s friends from the firm traveled with him to doctor’s appointments and met with him for hours to discuss treatment options. Yankwitt thought those friends retaliated against him once he went on disability. The firm claims Yankwitt detailed in emails what claims he planned to pursue against the company, though those emails never mentioned disability discrimination or retaliation claims.
The firm, in court documents, said those claims “have been concocted after the fact to support Mr. Yankwitt’s ridiculous claim for a prejudgment remedy of over $9 million in damages pursuant to inapplicable statutory anti-discrimination laws,” wrote Fogarty on behalf of the firm.
While the case will ultimately be decided in arbitration, the plaintiff is asking a state Superior Court judge for a $15 million prejudgment remedy “so that there is security to make sure that Craig Yankwitt can recover his judgment after the arbitration hearing,” said Schaefer. A hearing on the prejdugment remedy was scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4.•