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$18M Verdict Could Cripple Firm

As one observer put it, the legal-malpractice verdict made for a "seriously bad day" for the Indianapolis law firm Fillenwarth, Dennerline, Groth & Towe. After a six-day trial, the state-court jury found the labor-law firm liable for $18 million for failing to notify a health plan's trustees of the plan's growing financial losses. As the Indianapolis Star reports, the verdict covers unpaid medical claims faced by the now-defunct plan's 8,200 members. The verdict "amounts to a potentially crippling financial blow for the 43-year-old Eastside firm," Star reporter Jeff Swiatek writes.

Worse yet, the verdict could have been avoided. Star columnist John Ketzenberger reports that partner Frederick Dennerline III urged the firm's malpractice insurer to settle the matter for $1 million, but the insurer, ProNational Insurance Co., refused and took the case to trial.

Others within the Indianapolis legal community were dumbstruck by the verdict. "There but for the grace of God go I," one lawyer told the Star, while another said, "It's the worst, most god-awful thing I've ever seen." Even Irwin Levin, managing partner of the firm that represented the state Department of Insurance in bringing the suit, said in a press release:

"I am sad to have to bring a legal malpractice claim against ICIT's former counsel, but I am sadder still for the thousands of Hoosiers who are struggling to pay health care bills as a result of such negligence."

Marcia Oddi's The Indiana Law Blog has followed the case here and here.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 5, 2006 at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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