Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Coffey files motion reply



By David Baker
Posted on October 13, 2007

It’s true! At least according to the attorney representing lawyer Steve Coffey in his fight against my lawsuit accusing him of trying to destroy my medical malpractice case against Samaritan Hospital over the death of my wife, Lisa.

In a legal document filed with the court last week, Coffey’s attorney, Pamela Nichols, says I should not be given the extra latitude often granted to self-represented litigants because it is clear that I am not “the typical unsophisticated laymen” (sic), and the fact that I have continued to represent Lisa’s estate in the case against the hospital shows that, “a David and Goliath dynamic is not present in this case.”

Nichols is trying to get my lawsuit thrown out before any of the parties have been questioned under oath. She seems particularly anxious to stop me from deposing my former attorney, Cynthia LaFave. She claims I want to depose LaFave not to reveal facts in this case but just so I can attack the Delmar attorney – even though legal papers Nichols filed last month include a copy of a sworn statement by LaFave.

This effort is particularly disingenuous considering that at my meeting with him in his office last year, Coffey said LaFave didn’t know what she was doing, had sued too many people, and in medical malpractice cases, was “in over her head.”

Nichols also claims my lawsuit is “driven by paranoia and grief.”

Of course there is grief, as well as anger. Someone died under circumstances which still have not been revealed, almost four years later. That’s why there is a lawsuit.

But paranoia? That is a specific medical condition. One dictionary defines it as “a form of insanity characterized by fixed delusions.”

Is Nichols a psychiatrist, as well as a lawyer whose boss has given her an indefensible case?

Most lawyers who decline a case will make sure they advise the potential client of the statute of limitations. They want a defense against any claim if a lawsuit is filed too late.

But with a similar deadline approaching in my case, I can prove that Coffey did just the opposite.

After contacting me in August 2006 and offering to consider a case his firm, citing its workload, had rejected earlier in the year, Coffey:

* agreed to examine LaFave’s legal file on the case but never did;

* asked me for and was paid $1,500 for an expert’s review of the medical records but in four months never had any review done;

* stated in writing that he had made a formal request to the court for an extension of a hold then in place, before eventually admitting to me in writing that no such request had been made;

* finally filed the request with the court, two days after the deadline, while ignoring repeated requests from me for a copy of the letter he had stated had been sent two weeks earlier.

And incredibly, Coffey now claims that while all this was happening, he was still considering whether to take the case against the hospital.

The lawsuit wasn’t thrown out, but only because, suspicious of Coffey’s real motive and one day before the deadline – and against the specific advice of his associate and co-defendant Brendan Tully – I prepared and served an affidavit opposing a motion by the doctors and the hospital to have the whole case dismissed.

So this week, Coffey, desperate to avoid having his actions revealed in deposition testimony, is asking the court to treat me as if I too have been through law school, and now have years of experience and the support staff and research abilities of one of the largest and oldest law firms in the area.

The suggestion is ludicrous. In fact, I been never been to law school or even taken a paralegal course. Nor did I go to college; I was home schooled. All I have done is copy the layout of necessary documents and absorbed enough of the legal terminology to write the complaint and other papers filed so far in this case.

But that -- and a strong set of facts -- apparently is all you need to get one of the area’s most visible lawyers running scared.