Saturday, March 11, 2017

Civil Jury Orders Lawyer To Cough Up $1.4 Million To Ex-Client For Misappropriating Over $300K Held In Escrow Account; Punitive Damages Remain To Be Determined

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Connecticut Post reports:
  • [S]tratford lawyer Laurence Parnoff fell hard Monday [February 20] after a jury ordered him to pay $1.4 million to a Stratford woman for spending more than $300,000 of her money that he was holding in a special account.

    And it’s not over. A judge will now decide how much additional money Parnoff will be ordered to pay after the jury decided punitive damages should be ordered in the case.

    Parnoff did not return calls for comment.

    “My client was happy with the result, she felt the jury listened to her and paid attention to the relevant counts,” said New Haven lawyer Kenneth Rozich, who represented Darcy Yuille in the civil case.

    In December the state Supreme Court agreed with a lower court ruling that Parnoff should not be disbarred for his actions in the case holding that Parnoff did not willfully steal from Yuille. But after three hours of deliberation the six-member, Superior Court jury found that Parnoff committed civil theft through the “misappropriation,” of Yuille’s money.

    Judge Dale Radcliffe will hold a hearing on the punitive damages.

    Although Parnoff, who represented himself during the trial, is expected to appeal, the verdict appears to bring to an end 18 years of litigation on the case.

    In 1998 Yuille, then a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital, hired Parnoff to sue the hospital after she was fired after suffering a work-related injury.

    She signed an agreement to give him 40 percent of any money he won from the hospital but later learned the agreement Parnoff had her sign violated state law which caps contingency fees in civil cases at 33 percent, according to court papers.

    When the case was arbitrated for nearly $1.1 million, Yuille agreed to give Parnoff $125,000 instead of the nearly $440,000 his agreement called for with the remainder of the money - about $315,000 - put into an escrow account until the fee dispute could be settled.

    Parnoff subsequently sued Yuille and won a $252,000 jury award which was later overturned by the state Appellate Court. In the meantime, court papers state that Yuille learned that Parnoff had transferred all the $315,000 plus interest from the escrow account to his personal account and used all the money to pay his bills. She then sued him, claiming theft.

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