NY Real Estate Developer Wants S1.1 Bln from Law Firm Over Blown Deadline

Hundred dollar bills

May 8 (Reuters) - A real estate developer has filed a $1.1 billion legal malpractice lawsuit against New York law firm Herrick Feinstein, alleging that the firm bungled his case and that one of its attorneys lied to two federal judges to cover up his mistake.

Jacob Frydman said in the lawsuit filed Friday in New York County Supreme Court that Herrick blew a key deadline against his former business partner, leading to a lackluster jury verdict in what should have been a billion-dollar-plus case.

Herrick and its partner Arthur Jakoby, who was also named as a defendant, said in a statement that the claims "completely lack merit" and that the firm "has a substantial unpaid legal fee claim against Mr. Frydman."

Leo Jacobs, whose law firm is representing Frydman in the lawsuit, said if "there are any sums due, please provide an invoice and I am sure it will be taken care of promptly."

Frydman had alleged in a 2014 lawsuit that his former business partner Eli Verschleiser conspired with others to hijack the email servers of his company, United Realty Partners, and unlawfully accessed his email account. Frydman also alleged Verschleiser engaged in an anonymous, online smear campaign against him.

Frydman claimed he suffered nearly $380 million in compensatory damages. But lawyers at Herrick told a damages expert and others that their deadlines to submit reports in the case were in January 2017 when they were actually due in December 2016, the lawsuit said.

After the deadline passed, Jakoby fabricated an agreement that falsely made it seem as if Verschleiser's lawyers agreed to an extension, and then submitted deceptive filings to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cott and U.S. District Judge John Koeltl about the matter, Frydman alleges.

"In sum, Herrick and Jakoby blew a clear and unambiguous court-ordered deadline, and then lied to not one, but two federal judges to cover up their malpractice," the lawsuit said.

Koeltl excluded the damages report in a March 2017 ruling, finding Frydman and his lawyers had no excuse for missing the "unambiguous deadline for expert disclosure." A federal jury eventually sided with Frydman in his lawsuit against Verschleiser and others, awarding him more than $2.1 million.

"But for Herrick’s and Jakoby’s malpractice, plaintiffs would have recovered punitive damages of $1.139 billion or more," the lawsuit said.

Verschleiser, who is not a party to the legal malpractice suit, is seeking to overturn the jury's decision. His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Jacob Frydman, et al., v. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, et al., New York County Supreme Court, Index No. 150679/2023

For Jacob Frydman, Prime United Holdings LLC and United Realty Advisors LP: Ilevu Yakubov (Leo Jacobs), Lewis Fischbein and Adam Sherman of Jacobs P.C., and Casey Coyle of Babst, Calland, Clements, and Zomnir P.C.

For Herrick, Feinstein and Arthur Jakoby: Anthony Sylvester of Sherman Atlas Sylvester & Stamelman

Reporting by David Thomas

Original article