Trial lawyers are trying to slip in a fast one in the waning days of the legislative session in Albany that would fatten their legal fees in medical malpractice cases.
Lawyers can earn 30 percent of the first $250,000 recovered in medical malpractice recoveries, dropping to 20 percent of the next $500,000, 15 percent of the following $250,000 and 10 percent of any amount over $1.25 million.
A bill introduced on Sunday by Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) would allow much heftier fees.
The 30 percent cut would be applied to the first $1 million recovered, 25 percent of the next $250,000 and 20 percent of any amount over $1.25 million in cases decided by the end of 2019.
The contingency fees then get bumped up even higher — 30 percent of the first $1.25 million and 25 percent of any amount over that — in cases decided before Dec. 31, 2020.
And after Dec. 31, 2020, lawyers could collect the contingency fee percentage allowed in all other litigation — 33 percent of recoveries.
“This is a gift to the trial lawyers. The bill would directly take money from injured victims and give it the trial lawyers,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.
“There’s no justification for the bill — except to put more money into the pockets of trial lawyers.”
The trade association representing New York City hospitals also slammed the legislation as encouraging the plaintiff’s bar to seek bigger malpractice payouts.
“It’s bad enough that this bill would drastically worsen hospitals’ already sky-high medical-malpractice costs, but it’s downright shameless that it doesn’t even pretend to help injured patients. Albany should emphatically reject it,’ said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association.
De Francisco is a lawyer who is affiliated with a personal injury law firm he founded, De Francisco & Falgiatano. He is of counsel to the firm now co-run by his son, Jeff.
De Francisco received $31,000 in donations from trial lawyers’ political action committees over the past five years; Weinstein received $14,000 from the trial lawyers lobby, state Board of Elections show.
Weinstein, in her bill memo, claimed the current sliding fee scale for lawyers “works to the detriment of the injured citizen.” It can be seen that the fee schedule encourages lawyers to recommend their client settle rather than go to trial.
She argued that the current fee scale “creates an inherent conflict between the interest of the injured patient and the attorney that has agreed to take on the task of proving the case.”
The bill was introduced on June 18 — a Sunday — so it could be voted before the Legislature adjourns this week.
De Francisco had no immediate comment.