A Sarasota judge has ruled against Morgan & Morgan’s motions to minimize a $5 million jury verdict laid at the nationwide law firm’s feet.
Circuit Court Judge Frederick Mercurio denied three filings submitted by Morgan & Morgan’s legal counsel on Monday. The separate motions — a renewed motion for directed verdict and/or judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a motion for a new trial or new trial on damages, as well as an alternative motion for remittitur — sought to reduce the damages or nullify a jury’s finding that Armando Lauritano, a Tampa-based attorney with the firm, improperly filed a claim and caused former clients to lose out on millions of dollars’ worth of damages.
Jacksonville lawyer Donald St. Denis represented the plaintiffs in their legal malpractice suit against Lauritano and the firm. The attorney told the Daily Business Review he felt validated by the judge’s rulings.
“[Morgan & Morgan] has taken in 17,000 cases a month and got 440 lawyers. You can’t do that!” St. Denis said. “You’ve got to deal with the people. People have problems and people need things taken care of.”
The lawsuit against Lauritano and Morgan & Morgan was brought by Shawna Pollock along with her husband, Rock. The Pollocks alleged Lauritano mishandled their claim against an obstetrics practice, nurse midwife and hospital for causing injuries to Shawna and the couple’s son, Rock Jr., during birth.
On Thursday St. Denis filed a motion to tax fees and costs against the defendants.
“We’re now filing for sanctions of over $1.2 million in attorney fees and more than $400,000 in costs — we offered to settle a couple of different times with them and they never would,” he said, referring to the plaintiff’s Aug.19, 2016, and Jan. 17, 2018, proposals for settlement.
Read the motion for attorney fees and costs:
John Morgan, the firm’s founder, said “this case is a long way from over” in a statement to the Daily Business Review.
“We defended this case because we think we are right,” Morgan said. “And we will continue fighting it because we still believe we are right. We fully expect to win outright on appeal and have a judgment in our favor entered by the appellate courts.”
The litigators listed as the firm’s legal representatives in the matter — Dinah Stein of Hicks, Porter, Ebenfeld & Stein in Miami, Thomas Saieva of La Cava & Jacobson in Tampa and Morgan & Morgan’s own Scott Whitley — did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
St. Denis said he remained confident the verdict would withstand further legal challenges.
“You can’t be a factory, you’ve got to take care of clients,” he said of Morgan & Morgan’s legal operation. “You can’t teach hungry, but you’ve got to teach responsibility.”