Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


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.