A Connecticut-based insurance company has filed a federal lawsuit against the estate and law firm of West Palm Beach solo practitioner Leonel R. Plasencia, along with former clients Michael and Eileen Cantinella, who claim Plasencia meddled with a trust account housing their $450,000 settlement.
Plasencia killed himself in August 2017, within the 10-day window in which the Cantinellas were supposed to have received their settlement money from a personal injury lawsuit he handled, according to the Cantinella’s April 2018 lawsuit. Plasencia had allegedly waited to pay his clients while medical liens were negotiated.
But in the Palm Beach Circuit Court complaint, the Cantinellas claimed they were surprised to discover soon after Plasencia’s death that the trust account was overdrawn. The suit also blames Wells Fargo for allegedly failing to report the overdraft to the Florida Bar.
According to the Florida Bar, no attorney discipline case was opened against Plasencia.
Twin City Fire Insurance Co., an affiliate of the Hartford Financial Services Group, insured Plasencia and his firm with a policy that covered negligence. But its lawsuit, filed Jan. 8 in the Southern District of Florida, argues it’s not liable for the missing money because the claim was made on April 10, 2018, long after the policy expired on Aug. 27, 2017.
According to Twin City’s complaint, it allows claims made within 60 days after a policy’s expiration, but the Cantinellas were too late.
The Cantinellas’ suit asks for the $450,000 settlement, along with interest and damages. That will likely amount to more than $500,000, which is the maximum Twin City can pay per policy, according to its complaint.
“Insurance carriers do not want to pay claims, especially claims on behalf of lawyers who are now deceased and no longer paying their premiums,” Pike said. ”Now that Mr. Plasencia cannot speak from the grave, the insurance carrier is going to attempt to utilize that to its advantage in an effort to spin away coverage.”
In Lustig’s view, it’s disheartening that his clients are still uncompensated for an accident that resulted in 16 surgeries for Michael Cantinella.
“[Our clients] felt that they were running against a brick wall because they didn’t know what to do after they discovered there would be no compensation for their injuries,” Lustig said. “They were taken advantage of.”
Read Twin City’s full complaint: