Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, March 27, 2009

Name-calling attorney

Lawyer's bizarre insults
are on the radio again

By David Baker
Posted Friday, March 24, 2009

Steve Coffey is back on the radio and he’s using the ‘N’ word again.

The last time, back in December, it was a Jewish national talk show host that Coffey called “a Nazi.”

This time it’s former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Appearing on his regular infomercial on WGDJ on Wednesday morning, Coffey and host Paul Vandenburgh were talking about President Obama. Vandenburgh said he thinks Obama doesn’t seem to do much work, to which Coffey said:

“Well at least he doesn’t listen to that Nazi who’s a vice president from before.”

Vandenburgh (sounding a little uneasy): “Well, all right, er, Cheney?”

Coffey: “Yeah.”

And later in the program, Vandenburgh was all but kissing Coffey’s feet as the two were talking about state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco. Tedisco is running against Scott Murphy in a special election next week for the 20th Congressional District seat that was held by Kirsten Gillibrand until Gillibrand was appointed to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

Vandenburgh, who says he supports Tedisco, said this to Coffey:

“You know, I’ve known you as long as I’ve known [Tedesco]. You’ve had a sterling career. You had a great career. OK? And that’s fair of me to say, right? I’ve never heard … nobody’s ever whispered anything negative in my ear about Steve Coffey. Steve Coffey’s led a good life, raised his kids, got a great wife, a pillar of the community, a respected professional.”

Coffey: “Yeah, well, er, a little overstated, but OK.”

Only a little?

And, in case his point wasn’t clear, a moment later Vandenburgh added this:

“Tedisco and you are the same in that regard. You’ve had great public lives. Done a good job. Nobody’s ever called me and said ‘Hey, I called that Steve Coffey and he didn’t help me.’ You’ve been there for anybody that’s reached out to you, OK?”

Vandenburgh must not have read any of the posts on this page about Coffey, or any of the e-mails alerting him to the posts. That, or he just wants the money he must be getting for promoting Coffey and his firm and he doesn’t care if he looks like a simpering, unthinking fool doing it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coffey's admission

Confidential letter reveals
attorney's real intentions

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attorney Steve Coffey decided that he probably would not take over Lisa’s wrongful-death lawsuit soon after he asked for the file and received $1,500 for a medical review that he never had done and almost three months before he returned the file and the money with a rejection letter, according to a written statement he sent to the Committee on Professional Standards in response to a complaint that he had attempted to get the case pending against Samaritan Hospital dismissed while pretending to consider taking it.

Coffey’s letter was sent in June of last year, and was apparently written with an assurance of confidentiality; The Committee did not allow access to it and other correspondence from the lawyer until last month, following the sudden death of a committee staff member who had evidently been handling the complaint. And even then the letters could only be reviewed; no copies could leave the committee’s office.

The Committee on Professional Standard is part of the state’s court system. Its stated role is to deal with complaints against lawyers. Serious misconduct can be referred to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which is able to suspend or permanently revoke a license to practice law. Less serious matters would not go before the court but can result in a confidential letter being placed letter in the lawyer’s file or a verbal caution.

As was reported here earlier this month, it was in one of his letters to the committee that Coffey stated that his firm, O’Connell & Aronowitz, “…did not and we do not represent Samaritan Hospital.”

The day after the letter was written – Feb. 19 of this year – the firm filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health. One of the plaintiffs is Samaritan Hospital.

Coffey’s statement that he had decided that he probably would not take over the lawsuit was made to explain why he didn’t respond to two separate written requests for a meeting to address concerns about the way his “evaluation” of the case was being handled.

Despite his early decision that he would likely not take the lawsuit, and an approaching deadline after which the claim could be dismissed, it wasn’t until three months after receiving the medical records that Coffey sent them back with a letter in which he said he didn’t want the case. The letter was written three days after the firm was notified that a judge had denied a motion by the defendants to throw the entire case out of court.

Six weeks earlier, an associate in Coffey’s office, Brendan Tully, had said in a letter that the firm had complied with the judge’s instruction to write to the court formally requesting an extension of a stay of the proceeding. But repeated and increasingly urgent requests to both Coffey and Tully for a copy of the letter produced no response.

Coffey later admitted in writing that no such letter had been sent. The firm also admitted that no review was done of the medical records.

Following the review of Coffey’s letters to the standards committee a written demand was made to O’Connell & Aronowitz for copies of them. It was pointed out that if the firm would not provide the letters it would be assumed that it was not prepared to stand by Coffey’s statements, statements on which the committee initially decided that the complaint was baseless.

There has been no response from the law firm.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

A million-dollar denial

Lawsuit settlement shows
hospital in its true colors

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009

The news last week that Northeast Health, which operates Samaritan Hospital in Troy and Albany Memorial Hospital, has settled a lawsuit in which it was accused of conspiring with other Capital Region hospitals to keep all their nurses’ pay low is consistent with other actions that have been noted on this page. And even though Northeast Health continues to loudly deny the allegations, it has also agreed to pay $1.25 million to remove the company from the class-action claim. To most people, $1.25 million is an admission, no matter what the PR department says.

The lawsuit, filed in 2006 against hospitals in several U.S. cities, also names St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany Medical Center Hospital St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, Ellis Hospital in Schenectady and St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants conspired to keep their nurses’ pay scales at almost the same levels, thus removing competition. According to the suit, the hourly rates at each hospital varied by less than a dollar, costing the nurses an average of $6,000 a year.

The settlement requires Northeast Health to provide documents and allow depositions of its staff that can be used in the lawsuit that continues against the remaining Capital Region defendants. It has also agreed not to share information about current or future nurses’ earnings with the other hospitals.

The settlement comes a week after the announcement that by the end of the year St. Mary’s in Troy, St. Peter’s Hospital and Northeast Health will effectively merge into one entity under a single governing board.

This would seem to once again remove much of the competition each of them would otherwise face in hiring and retaining nurses.

The allegations in this lawsuit shouldn’t be a surprise to readers of this page. In an earlier posting it was pointed out that the apparent competition between the area’s hospitals was really a deliberate illusion. The post noted that although each of the hospitals advertises separately, an examination of their broadcast and print announcements revealed that each one would generally promote a different specialty, and that they would take turns in running their major advertising campaigns, thus keeping all their names in public view while at the same time maintaining a steady stream of revenue to a media that for the past 10 years has ignored virtually every malpractice lawsuit filed against those hospitals.

And now details of all those lawsuits are going to be available to everyone online. As Northeast has now tacitly acknowledged and will soon learn again, fighting claims when you clearly are wrong really isn’t good for your health.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Attorney's disregard of facts

Coffey's letter denies his firm
represents Lisa-death hospital

By David Baker
Posted Monday, March 09, 2009

Either Steve Coffey thinks he can lie about what his own law firm is doing. Or he makes written statements without bothering to check that they are true.

On February 18, Coffey wrote a letter in response to allegations that his law firm had a conflict of interest when he called me and offered to consider taking over my wrongful death case against Samaritan Hospital.

I had already shown that Coffey’s firm was representing the Healthcare Association of New York State, which lists as a member Samaritan Hospital.

Then in his letter last month Coffey wrote:

“[O’Connell & Aronowitz ] did not and we do not represent Samaritan Hospital.”

One day later, Coffey’s firm filed a lawsuit alleging that the state Department of Health has charged medical labs too much in fees.

Among the plaintiffs named in that lawsuit is – Samaritan Hospital.


The doctor will see you – without your First Amendment rights

Back in 2005, I reported on this page that a number of Web sites had appeared containing comments about medical providers. The piece went on to say that some of the providers were hitting back with lawsuits against patients who made negative comments.

Last week, several news organizations reported that some doctors are now requiring people to sign a waiver, giving up their right to make public comments about the provider.

Most people interviewed said they simply wouldn’t go to a doctor who made such a demand.

And as for the forthcoming page that will list medical malpractice lawsuits filed over the past 10 years against Capital Region hospitals and doctors: Because the information will come from public court records, a lawsuit that tried to stop it would have little chance of success.

But the publicity would be priceless.