Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, February 22, 2009

New suit reveals conflict


Coffey's firm represents Samaritan Hospital

The most serious complaint against Stephen Coffey in his "evaluation" of Lisa's case, during which he allegedly tried to to get the lawsuit thrown out, was that he had a conflict of interest because his firm, O'Connell & Aronowitz, was representing, indirectly the interests of one of the defendants.

That representation is no longer indirect.

Last week the firm filed a lawsuit against the state Health Department. One of the plaintiffs in the suit is Samaritan Hospital.

Click here to read the Times Union story.


Coffey's paper trail

The Tully e-mails

Posted on Sunday, February 22 by David Baker

The following is the entire text of a series of e-mails between me and Brendan J. Tully, then an attorney at O’Connell & Aronowitz.

Following a meeting in August 2006 with Tully and Stephen Coffey at the offices of O’Connell & Aronowitz, Tully wrote and asked for a check for $1,500 for a expert’s review of Lisa medical records from Samaritan Hospital. I sent my check the same day. And that’s when, with a deadline approaching after which the whole case could be thrown out, the attorneys became strangely reluctant to communicate with me.

The first three e-mails were all sent by me from England in October 2006. During a telephone conversation the day before I left, Tully said he would get back to me with the status of the firm’s evaluation of the case.

He did not do so.

Sent : Thursday, October 5, 2006 7:53 AM
To :
Subject: Estate of Lisa Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital et al


Following our telephone conversation last Thursday I was expecting to
hear from you by the end of last week. What can you tell me regarding
the status of a) the expert's review and b) your firm's attempts to contact my former
attorney, Cynthia LaFave?

Thank you.

David Baker

Sent : Friday, October 6, 2006 8:08 AM
To :
Subject : Estate of Lisa M. Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital, et al


I am still awaiting a response - any response - to my phone call and
e-mail messages to you over the past week.

As you know, I am in Europe and may be staying here longer than
planned, so my only means of immediate written communication is e-mail.

Back in August, Mr. Coffey contacted me out of the blue and offered to
take a look at my case - a case that in April your firm had
declined to investigate.

On August 30 I brought to you a copy of my wife's medical chart from
Samaritan Hospital. Two and a half weeks later you wrote to me stating
that you would require me to forward to you the sum of 15 hundred
dollars for a review by an expert. I sent my check to you the same day.

On Thursday of last week, after repeated calls over three days, I got
you on the phone. During this conversation, you stated several times
that you were not sure of the exact status of the case, but that you
would call me back later that day.

I did not hear from you that day, or before I left the country the
next day.

This past Wednesday I asked in an e-mail for the status of your review
of this case. I heard nothing.

Yesterday, I sent a further e-mail. I still have no response.

Will you please now tell me a) if you have heard from the expert and,
if not, when you anticipate a response and b), the status of your
attempts to contact my former attorney, Cynthia LaFave.

Thank you.
David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

Sent : Saturday, October 7, 2006 10:37 AM
To :
Subject : Estate of Lisa M. Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital, et al

Mr. Tully:

This will note that none of the e-mail messages I have sent to you
from here in the U.K over the past three days regarding the above-
referenced action has received even an acknowledgment. I am unable to
comprehend this total lack of a response.

I also note that, depending on exactly how the time is counted, the
stay on these wrongful death/medical malpractice actions will expire
sometime in the coming week. As you have been aware since I handed you
Lisa's hospital medical chart during my visit with you and Mr. Coffey
at your office on August 30, at that time, defendants will be able to
file a motion for dismissal of all actions pending in this matter.

Given the Judge's comments in the Decision and Order that imposed the
stay (a copy of which you also received on August 30), it seems
likely that, without the intervention of counsel, such a motion would
be granted no matter what I said.

Although I am out of the country, I can retrieve voice mail message
left at my home phone number in the U.S.

That number is (518) 237-0041. Please contact me as soon as possible
and advise me of the status of this matter.

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker


After returning to the U.S., I was served with motions by all three defendants to dismiss the case for failure to proceed. I sent a copy of one of the motions to Tully, asking for advice on how I should respond. Tully replied to an e-mail sent on October 26 by stating that a letter had been sent to the court asking for an extension of the stay. In fact, as Coffey later admitted in writing, no such letter had been sent.

Sent : Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:56 AM
To :
Subject: Lisa Baker Vs Samaritan Hospital, et al


Dear Mr. Tully:

I write again to inquire about the status of your firm’s review of the
above-captioned medical malpractice/ wrongful death action.

As you know, earlier this month, I received not even an acknowledgment
from you of several phone calls and a series of increasingly urgent
e-mails asking for basic information on a case your firm asked to review.

In mid September I handed $1,500 to your firm. That may not be a lot to
you but it is to me. I feel that at the very least I am entitled to
minimum information about your review of a case that is now at immediate
risk of being dismissed.

Therefore, please now tell me:

Is the medical review done? If not, when do you anticipate that it will
be completed?

Have you gained access to the file on this case held by my former
attorney? If not, what reason does she give for withholding it? And what
action, if any, do you propose to take to get the file from her?

What action needs to be taken in response to one of the defendant’s
motion to dismiss the entire case, answering papers for which are due
this Monday?

I await your response,

Since I was served with the motion, I intend to file a response with
the Court unless I hear from you in writing that none is required.

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

From Brendan Tully
Sent Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:05 am
Subject RE: Lisa Baker Vs Samaritan Hospital, et al

Mr. Baker,

Thank you for your email. As for the status of our review; As you know,
approximately 2 weeks ago, this office wrote a letter to the Court
requesting an extension of your stay to obtain a new attorney, so that
we may complete the review of your matter. We based our request
primarily on not having the complete file, and also, not having the
medical review complete. Last week, the Court contacted this office and
asked that we specify how long of an extension that we were asking for.

Subsequently, Mr. Coffey has had discussions with Ms. LaFave and made
arraignments to go to her office and review your file. Additionally, we
sent a second letter to the Court, explaining the new developments and
requesting an additional 120 days. As of today, we have not heard back
from the Court on this request.

As for your questions about what is the appropriate response to the
moving papers, I will ask Mr. Coffey what his recommendation is when he
returns to the office this afternoon, and then inform you of the same.

As soon as I learn any more information regarding the Stay, or Steve's
review of the file, I will contact you immediately.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

Brendan J. Tully
O'Connell and Aronowitz

Sent Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:49 pm
Subject Estate of Lisa M. Baker Vs. Samaritan Hospital

Mr. Tully:

I have received your e-mail today. I will await your further
communication Friday regarding the moving papers. Since at this late
stage I still do not know that the judge will grant an extension of the
stay, I feel I must attempt to preserve this matter by filing an
affidavit in opposition. Unfortunately, that will involve providing the
defendants with information which will hardly strengthen my case. But at
this point, that appears to be unavoidable.

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

I receive no repose to this last message. I then prepared and served an affidavit opposing the motions to dismiss. I also made the following repeated requests for a copy of the letter Tully had said had been sent to the Court.

Sent Tuesday, October 31, 2006 9:34 pm
Subject Letter to the court

Mr. Tully:

During a telephone conversation on Sunday, Mr. Coffey said he would have
you send me a copy of your firm's letter to the Court referenced in your
letter to me dated October 26. If you have not already done so, please
send me a copy of this letter so that I may properly defend the pending
motion to dismiss.

Thank you

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

From Brendan Tully
Sent Thursday, November 2, 2006 10:56 am
Subject RE: Letter to the court

Dear Mr. Baker,

I am in receipt of both your email and your fax. First, as a point of
clarification, contrary to your fax, you did not send the above
referenced email until well after work hours on Tuesday night.
Therefore, I did not get it until yesterday. Additionally, I was in the
office on Monday, awaiting your call as we discussed, and I did not
receive it.

Pursuant to you letter, I will ask my Legal Assistant to forward Mr.
Coffey's letter.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Brendan J. Tully
O'Connell and Aronowitz

Despite Tully’s statement in this last message, no letter was received.

Sent Monday, November 6, 2006 7:57 am
Subject: Lisa Baker Vs Samaritan Hospital, et al

Mr. Tully,

A week ago, on Monday, October 29, Mr. Coffey was to ask you to send to me
a copy of a letter which you have stated in writing was sent by your firm
to the Court at some time between October 11 and October 26. Mr. Coffey
also said the letter had been copied to all the parties in this case.

On Wednesday, November 1, I sent you an e-mail – which you have
since acknowledged receiving – asking for a copy of that letter, in
which I had explained to you I needed for a hearing on a motion to dismiss all pending
actions in my case.

On Thursday, November 2, not having received a response to the e-mail, I
sent the same text in a fax.

That same day, Thursday, November 2, you said in an e-mail that you
would have your assistant send me a copy of the letter.

It is now Monday, November 6. In less than an hour I will leave here to

Neither, apparently, does one of the opposing counsels.

Today I will find out if it was ever sent to the Court. And if not, if that
results in my wrongful death case being thrown out of court.

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

Still no letter. But during a telephone conversation with a clerk at the Saratoga County Supreme Court on November 9 I learned that a fax about my case was coming in from O’Connell & Aronowitz. So I sent the following to Tully:

Sent Thursday, November 9, 2006 7:42 pm
Subject: Lisa Baker - request for letter

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

Mr. Tully:

It has been a week since you said in an e-mail that you would send me a
copy of a letter that you had previously stated in writing had been sent
to Justice Ferradino. As of tonight, I have not received that copy.

Please forward it to me now. Please also send me a copy of the item sent
this week from your firm's office by fax to the judge's chambers in Malta.

Thank you

David Baker
Administrator of the estate of Lisa M. Baker

Finally, on November 9, Coffey admitted in writing that the letter Tully had stated on October 26 had been sent to the court and the defense counsels had not been sent until November 2. It arrived at the court one day after the deadline and as a result was disregarded by the judge. The stay was extended only because I filed the affidavit – an affidavit that Tully, 48 hours before the deadline, had tried to talk me out of filing.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coffey's angry words

Attorney's letter raises many

questions about his conduct

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, February 8, 2009

Following is the text of a letter dated January 8, 2006 I received from attorney Stephen Coffey of O’Connell & Aronowitz. It came after I had sent a letter to each of the firm’s partners accusing Coffey and another attorney at the firm, Brendan Tully, of trying to get my wrongful death case thrown out of court for failure to proceed. It described how Tully had told me in writing that a letter had been sent to the court formally requesting an extension of a stay, and how he and Coffey had ignored repeated and increasingly urgent written requests from me for a copy of the letter Tully said had been sent.

It was only after motions from all three defendants had been denied in response to an affidavit that I personally prepared and filed that Coffey admitted that the letter had not been sent. A few days later, Coffey sent back the medical file – three months after he had been paid $1,500 for a expert’s review that he never had done – with a letter saying he didn’t want the case.

In my letter to the partners, I said I should be compensated for the extreme stress that Coffey’s actions had caused. The letter below was Coffey’s response.

The text appears here in full. The numbers in brackets refer to footnotes about specific statements in the letter.

“David Baker v. Samaritan Hospital et al

“Dear Mr. Baker:

“I will respond to your last letter of December 19, 2006 but I intend to have no further contact with you Frankly, I have grown weary of your reckless and unwarranted assaults on me and my office.[1] With regard to the cost incurred in Saratoga County, approximately $300.00, we are in the process of either paying the $300,00 or getting the acknowledgment from the Defense that such money would not be due and owing. Under no circumstances would you be liable for that charge.[2]

“In your letter you state that we have cause you enormous mental anguish. This is absurd. Further, your demand that you should be compensated by us for $20,000 is tragically ludicrous. As you of course well know, I advised you that we would review the above case and I was in the process of actually meeting with Cynthia LaFave [3] when you called with your wild and unsubstantiated accusations.[4] You can proceed further in any way you deem fit, but the facts are very clear. It is also evident that you are your own worse advocate, and I suspect that one reason Ms. LaFave did not want to go forward is due to the fact that you fall into the category of an “impossible client.” Do not contact me again. If you feel you must notify the appropriate authorities, please feel free to do so,[5] but I am happy that we did not undertake to represent you, now knowing how impossible you can be. Lastly, I am specially warning you about any slanderous or libelous statements that you may make. We will take appropriate action if you do.[6]

“Very truly yours,

By: Stephen R. Coffey.”

FOOTNOTES: 1. Coffey has never described or made any further reference to these “assaults.”

2. The $300 – for the defense attorneys’ costs of the unnecessary motions – wasn’t paid to me for more than two months and then only after a written request for it had produced no response and I had taken O’Connell & Aronowitz to Small Claims Court, obtained a judgment and threatened to enforce it when the firm still didn’t pay the award.

3. My former attorney, who had abandoned the case without telling me.

4. No accusations of any kind were made in either of two very brief telephone conversations I had with Coffey and two with Tully, during the last of which, a day before the deadline, Tully tried to dissuade me from filing my affidavit in opposition to the motions to dismiss. All other communications were either letters or e-mails, copies of which are available to anyone who asks.

5. In April 2008 I lodged a complaint with the Professional Standards Committee; after initially stating that it found no misconduct, the committee is now reconsidering its decision and just this week received additional documents from me.

6. Despite numerous postings on this page, Coffey has not filed any lawsuit, although I would welcome the opportunity it would give me to compel him to explain under oath and in detail his conduct in this matter in answers to questions he avoided when he got my lawsuit against him thrown out on a technicality before any testimony was taken.