Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Coffey's alleged conspircy

Big-name lawyer tries

to kill 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 didn'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 allegedly 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