A Manhattan District Attorney investigation into ambulance chasing has yielded its 11th attorney conviction. The probe, ongoing since 1999, involves a “runner” bribing hospital officials for the names of patients and then selling them to corrupt attorneys for $500, according to this New York Law Journal article.
The attorneys who bought the names have been convicted of a felony for filing a false statement, and disbarred. The filed document is a “Retainer Statement” that New York personal injury attorneys must furnish to the Office of Court Administration that sets forth the terms of the contingency arrangement, and also mandates that the attorney set forth how the law firm was found by the client. A subsequent filing must be made at the end of representation detailing exactly what happened to the proceeds (if any) of a matter taken on contingency.
I am of mixed feelings on seeing this. On the one hand, it is a continuing embarrassment to the profession to see this conduct happen. The image of all attorneys, and those who practice personal injury law in particular, are further smeared leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the public.
On the other hand, and far more importantly, I know this crap happens and I want it stopped. I have heard it through the grapevine as new clients reported on how they were approached by others after being hospitalized. It is utterly infuriating, and I am pleased that the Manhattan District Attorney is working on the issue. I have often quietly hoped (and today, not so quietly) that District Attorneys in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island would follow suit, not only investigating based on tips they receive, but even running sting operations.
Seven other now-convicted New York attorneys were listed in the article for using the runner (Jean Phillipe Landi) named in the article:
- David Sheeger (Kafko, Schnitzer & Sheeger);
- Scott Sessler (Sessler & Chilewich);
- Daniel Chilewich (Sessler & Chilewich);
- Lawrence Dicker (Dicker & Ferrandino);
- Lloyd Berns (Berns & Castro);
- Eugene Castro (Berns & Castro); and
- Olga Sorkin.
Anthony Ferrandino (Dicker & Ferrandino);
In addition, two other attorneys uncovered in this probe had previously been convicted of stealing from clients, Michael Mann and Joshua Just (Mann & Just). The conviction was based on charging clients for expenses such as medical reports that had never been incurred. I had previously covered that here: Two Personal Injury Lawyers Sentenced in Billing Scam.
- I broached the topic of runners last November in one of my first posts, on how to pick a personal injury attorney.)
- The New York State Trial Lawyers Association, in discussing the new attorney advertising rules, made this strong comment last October regarding runners:
We strongly urge not only enforcement, but also outreach by the disciplinary committees to [the Office of Court Administration] itself and/or other State agencies for the resources needed to address what may be the most extraordinarily offensive variety of client solicitation. They must undertake the investigative efforts necessary to identify and prosecute those attorneys and hospital employees who are responsible for inserting “runners” into hospitals to solicit clients at their bedsides. Currently, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach effectively encourages wrongdoers. Our membership believes that hospitals are in a unique position to stop this practice and that it is in the best interests of their patients to do so.