A Florida jury has deemed an attorney with national law firm Morgan & Morgan liable for $5 million his clients lost in damages.
A Sarasota jury found that Armando Lauritano, a Morgan & Morgan attorney based in Tampa, cost former clients several million dollars’ worth in damages by failing to properly file a medical malpractice claim against an obstetrics practice, nurse midwife and hospital.
Lauritano had originally been hired by Shawna Pollock and her husband, Rock, following the birth of their son in November 2006.
Pollock’s uterus ruptured during childbirth after an emergency C-section was allegedly called far too late into the procedure, according to her attorneys. Her medical emergency deprived her son of oxygen, purportedly producing the brain damage with which the child, now 11, continues to contend.
Read the verdict form:
Morgan & Morgan has 450 lawyers in 50 cities across Florida, California, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.
John Morgan, the firm’s founder, said the firm will fight the $5 million verdict.
“We have 450 lawyers in 50 cities. We collect over $1 billion a year for our clients,” Morgan said in a statement to the Daily Business Review. “This case was out of our Tampa Florida office. We defended this case because we think we are right. We still believe we are right. We have never ever had a verdict against our firm. We fully expect to win out right on appeal and have a judgement entered by the appellate courts in our favor. Stay tuned.”
‘Never Preserved the Mother’s Claim’
But opposing counsel painted a different picture.
According to Donald St. Denis, a Jacksonville-based attorney who represented the Pollocks in their legal malpractice suit, Morgan & Morgan attorney Lauritano dropped the ball from the very beginning and failed to visit his clients upon being hired.
St. Denis said that instead of visiting the family, Lauritano sent a private investigator to meet with the Pollocks at a Ronald McDonald House in Tampa, the couple’s place of residence during their son’s stay at All Children’s Hospital.
“What lawyer doesn’t have the time to go see a client like that?” St. Denis, a partner at St. Denis & Davey, told the Daily Business Review.
St. Denis argued that Lauritano was so intent on securing a large, potentially multimillion-dollar verdict in the underlying medical malpractice case that he neglected the parents’ injuries.
“After it became apparent that Rock Jr. would qualify for no-fault benefits from the Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association [NICA], and well after the statute of limitations period for submitting pre-suit notice of the claims for Shawna’s injuries, Morgan & Morgan withdrew from representing the Pollocks,” according to a press release from St. Denis & Davey.
“They never preserved the mother’s claim because they were so focused on getting them out of NICA,” St. Denis said. “You have to tell the hospital and medical practice and say the woman is a claimant as well.”
St. Denis added that Lauritano’s withdrawal left the Pollocks in a precarious legal position and subjected them to severe financial hardship. Additionally, the mother’s injuries deprived Pollock and her husband of the ability to be intimate as well as have more children.
The Oct. 17 verdict held that had the medical malpractice case proceeded to trial, the gynecology office and midwife would have owed $4.5 million in damages to the Pollocks, while the Sarasota County Public Hospital District would have been responsible for $500,000.
Now Lauritano and his firm are culpable for all of it.
In addition to the $5 million verdict, St. Denis will also be seeking more than $1.2 million in attorney fees, as well as court costs in excess of $400,000 from Morgan & Morgan.
“We’ve already filed a motion to enforce the judgment against the insurance company,” St. Denis said. He added that with Morgan & Morgan attorneys bringing “over 17,000 cases per month … it makes it very difficult to handle things.”
Opposing counsel Dinah Stein of Hicks, Porter, Ebenfeld & Stein in Miami and Thomas Saieva of La Cava & Jacobson in Tampa did not respond to requests for comment by press time. Morgan & Morgan attorney Scott Whitley, who is listed as a legal representative for Lauritano and the firm, also did not respond.