Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Judge denies motion to dismiss

One legal claim filed; more pending

By David Baker

In the last week of the old year, an action was filed in Small Claims Court in Albany County, claiming $300 plus costs from the law firm of O’Connell & Aronowitz.

The $300 was the amount awarded in costs to the three law firms representing defendants in the lawsuits filed on behalf of Lisa Baker against Samaritan Hospital and others, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death.

As is reported below, a state Supreme Court judge ordered me to pay $100 to each of the defending attorneys, even as he stated in his decision that it was “…Mr. Coffey’s sluggishness in attending to the Court’s request..” that caused the costs to be incurred.

Coffey has ignored a written request for reimbursement of the money, which has already been paid to the defendants. The claim is scheduled for trial on January 29.

Meanwhile, a much bigger claim against both the law firm and some of its members is now being prepared. The complaint will allege that Coffey, Brendan J. Tully and others conspired to deprive me of my constitutional right to the legal process, and that their outrageous conduct was the direct cause of severe mental and emotional anguish.

Following that, a separate claim alleging breach of contract, negligence and legal malpractice is planned against Delmar attorney Cynthia S. LaFave. That suit will allege that LaFave abandoned my lawsuits against the hospital without telling me, showed a total disregard for the interests of her client, and repeatedly obstructed the transfer of the case to a new attorney.

It has become apparent over the past three years that, in a broader sense, a lot of people are a part of a wider, unspoken conspiracy, a covert agreement that includes not just the lawyers, but also politicians who take contributions from hospitals while keeping regulations weak, and newspapers editors, who have routinely suppressed stories about medical errors while taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising from hospitals.

The proposed lawsuits may well shine a light on this unconscionable alliance, an alliance from which everyone benefits. Accept, of course, the estimated seven thousand people who die each year as a result of preventable medial mistakes in the state’s hospitals.

Big-name lawyer almost kills Lisa’s lawsuit

By David Baker

Posted on December 3, 2006

It has been a while since news of Lisa’s case was posted here. But behind the scenes a lot has been going on.

With a 90-day hold placed on the lawsuit in July when attorney Cynthia LaFave had the Court remove her from the case, the search was on for another attorney. A number of firms were contacted but for various reasons, each of them declined to take over the lawsuit, or, in some cases, even look at it.

Then in August I received a call from well known attorney Stephen Coffey. Mr. Coffey is with the Albany law firm of O’Connell & Aronowitz. I had already contacted this firm earlier this year but had been told in April that the firm was too busy to take my case.

Now out of the blue Steve Coffey was on the phone. He said he didn’t know if anyone had called me back, but he was now able to take a look at my case, and that I should make an appointment to go in and see him.

This I did at the end of August. Mr. Coffey said he would need to take a look at Ms. LaFave’s legal file on the case, and that he would contact her to arrange it.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from a Brendan Tully of the firm, explaining that I would be required to pay $1,500 for a review of the medical records by an expert. I mailed a check the next day.

And that was the start of a series of bizarre events that continued up to and past a court-imposed deadline for either proceeding with the case or having it dismissed – completely and permanently ended – for a failure to prosecute.

Calls were not returned. A letter that a judge had told Mr. Coffey to send in was not sent. Mr. Coffey never did inspect the legal file. And Lisa’s medical records were never sent to an expert for a review.

At the end of November, in response to a letter from me expressing concerns about this apparent negligence, Mr. Coffey sent back Lisa’s medical file, along with a brief letter in which he said he doesn’t want the case. That prompted me to write the following letter to the firm:


Mr. Stephen Coffey, Esq.,
O’Connell & Aronowitz
54 State Street
Albany, NY 12207

RE: Estate of Lisa Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital, et al

Dear Mr. Coffey:

I have received your letter with the enclosed medical chart and your firm’s check refunding the money I paid for an expert’s review of my wife’s medical record.

In a cruel twist, your letter rejecting my case arrived three years to the day after Lisa, an insulin-dependent diabetic, died at Samaritan Hospital in Troy. As you know, her death came three weeks after she was found in her hospital bed at 2 a.m. with no pulse and a blood sugar level of just 2.

So you don’t want the case. But fortunately for me, your attempt to get it dismissed failed.

And that I now believe was your intention all along. Right from when you placed a call to me out of the blue back on August 22, offering to take a look at a case your office had already considered and declined.

That is a very serious allegation. But there is ample documentation to back it up. And I find it highly significant that you make no attempt to explain the series of events that caused me to express my concerns over the way your firm has handled this matter.

* Such as stating to me in writing that you had sent a letter to the Court requesting an extension of a stay on the case when you knew or should have known that no letter had been sent.

* Such as telling me twice over the past month that you were about to review my file at the office of my former attorney and then not going there.

* Such as having your associate Brendan Tully, on the day before the return date for a motion to dismiss all my claims, urge me not to file an affidavit in opposition to the motion, while failing to inform me that your firm had not followed the judge’s directive that you send the Court a written request for a stay with copies to the defendants.

* Such as, after asking for and receiving from me in mid September the sum of $1,500 for an expert’s review of the medical records, not sending the file to any expert.

And why would you? You were just stalling, running out the clock, assuming – correctly – that I would not continue to look for another attorney. You fully expected the case to be dismissed. And it probably would have been, had I not ignored Mr. Tully’s advice and served an opposing affidavit on the attorneys for the defendants.

So now, despite your efforts, my lawsuit is still alive. And one day, when it’s over, a book laying out the incredible story of this case will be out there for all to read. Some big names are already a part of it: Joe Bruno. Fred Dicker. And Times Union Editor Rex Smith.

But my guess is that the Coffey chapter will be the one that really gets people talking. A famous name alledgedly gone bad always helps when it comes time to promote a publication.

Very truly yours,

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

PS – You owe me $300 for costs assessed by the Court for the unnecessary motions that were filed as a result of your failure to inform the defendants of your involvement in the case. Your check can be sent to me at the address above. And no, I will not sign any kind of release to get it.