The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has ruled that a New York law firm failed to properly represent victims in a Toyota car crash in St. Paul and was not entitled to any legal fees arising from a $10.9 million jury verdict in 2015.
The firm’s “legal services did not contribute to any success” the victims “obtained on the merits of their cases,” the three-judge panel said.
It upheld U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery’s conclusion that the Napoli Shkolnik law firm had harmed its clients.
The case involved the highly publicized Minneapolis trial in 2015 where a jury found that a defect in a Toyota Camry was a direct cause of the 2006 collision that led to multiple injuries and three deaths.
The driver, Koua Fong Lee, was convicted and imprisoned, then later released after it was determined that the vehicle, not Lee, was at fault. Lee and the victims in the other vehicle, sued Toyota Motor Co. and won in a three-week trial in federal court in Minneapolis.
The family of Devyn Bolton, the 6-year-old who was injured in the crash and died a year later, received $5.5 million and Quincy Ray Adams, who was injured, received $1.7 million.
Those amounts were subject to a 40% contingency fee for the law firms that represented them.
The firm of Markovits, Stock & DeMarco got 55%, and other lawyers sparred over the 45% of the contingency fee of $997,000.
Napoli Shkolnik contended it was due $112,000 but lawyers representing the victim families, argued it should get nothing because of the firm’s negligent behavior.
Montgomery concluded that the Napoli firm did “more harm than good.”
The law firm failed to disclose two items and made a settlement demand to Toyota without the family’s knowledge or consent. When the families learned of the demand, it fired the firm.
The Napoli firm did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.