For all you Becker & Poliakoff fans, there is this:
A West Palm Beach woman said she was victimized by BellSouth when she worked for the phone company, and then victimized again by her own attorneys, who messed up her case and hid the mistake from her until it was too late.
A Circuit Court jury on Wednesday agreed and said Becker & Poliakoff, the Hollywood-based law firm which represented her, must pay her $4.5 million for its mistake.
“I just said to myself ‘Thank you God because you are the only one I have to thank’,” Jackie Young said after hearing the jury verdict in her favor Wednesday. “After all that I’ve been through I never thought I’d be standing in this place.”
Young was one of 54 employees who sued BellSouth in the 1990s alleging racial discrimination against black employees. Eventually a judge dismissed Young’s suit in September of 2001 because of errors in the lawsuit filed by Becker & Poliakoff, according to the compliant she later filed against that law firm.
Becker & Poliakoff was founded in 1973 and now has more than 100 attorneys and offices across Florida as well as the Bahamas, France, Israel and the Czech Republic, according to the firm’s Web site.
The firm did not tell Young that her case had been thrown out until October of 2002. By then it was too late for Young to fix the problems in the suit and refile it, so her claim against BellSouth was permanently dismissed with no avenue to appeal in the future, according to Young’s attorney, Craig Zobel.
Zobel said the fact that it took a year for Young’s attorneys to tell her about the case being dismissed was not a simple oversight.
During that time they settled the overall class action lawsuit with BellSouth and collected $2.9 million in attorney’s fees. Young said that if she had known how her attorneys had made mistakes in her case, she would have told other plaintiffs to dismiss Becker & Poliakoff and the case would not have been settled.
“They were chasing a lot of money and they let her slip through the cracks,” Zobel said.
Alan Becker, however, says it was all the fault of a “rogue” lawyer:
A senior partner at the firm, Alan Becker, issued a statement after the verdict saying it was the fault of the specific lawyer who handled the case, Thomas Romeo, not the law firm.
Becker said Romeo was a “rogue lawyer who filed this case without authority and contrary to his supervisor’s clear direction. Unbeknownst to the firm and his colleagues, the case was filed and dismissed due to his error. Mr. Romeo purposely hid that information from all parties.”
Becker said Romeo was later fired from the law firm and disbarred. Romeo was disbarred in 2003, according to the Florida Bar.
Ok, but what about the $2.9 in attorneys’ fees that the firm collected? Did Romeo hide that too?Despite whatever happened with this rogue Romeo, I’m sure Alan feels tremendous sympathy for the poor victim:
“We disagree with the verdict blaming the firm for (Romeo’s) rogue behavior and we believe the damages are excessive,” Becker said in his statement. “We will appeal.”
Hey, even sympathy has limits.