The Turkewitz Law Firm, 228 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 Phone: (212) 983-5900
Ex-Fuchsberg Partner Wins $2.5 Million Award
New York Law Journal
February 19, 1999
BY MARK HAMBLETT
ABRAHAM Fuchsberg has again been directed to pay the price for disputes with his former partners at Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg.
Papers filed Wednesday in New York County Supreme Court show that an arbitrator has ordered the personal injury law firm to pay $2.5 million to former partner and medical malpractice specialist Bernard Turkewitz, who left Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg in 1995.
"The firm is weighing its options," said Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg associate Irwin M. Berg, who represented the firm before arbitrator William E. Spiro in hearings last fall. Mr. Berg has until March 10 to decide whether to contest the award before State Supreme Court Justice Elliot Wilk.
The decision comes almost eight years after Mr. Fuchsberg, now 83, was found personally liable to pay $900,000 each to former partners Donald Miller and Edwin N. Weidman for lost profits, as part of an arbitrator's determination that Messrs. Miller and Weidman were fired in bad faith from Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg in 1987.
The method of paying that award to Messrs. Weidman and Miller was challenged by Bernard Turkewitz in his case against the 26-lawyer firm.
Mr. Turkewitz, who supervised the firm's medical malpractice department from 1975 through 1995, claimed that Mr. Fuchsberg had used firm funds to pay the award to Messrs. Miller and Weidman, despite the fact that the firm itself was not a party to the earlier dispute.
Mr. Turkewitz, who is now retired, also charged the firm had failed to account for his proper income percentage from 1985 until 1995; that the firm had diverted funds to Mr. Fuchsberg's favorite charity, the Abraham Fuchsberg Family Foundation; and had deliberately delayed settlement of a major case until after Mr. Turkewitz had left.
And Mr. Turkewitz claimed that the firm had failed to credit him with his proper share of extra income realized when the firm changed its method of tax accounting in 1994 and alleged that the firm had maintained an escrow account with $102,730 in funds that belonged to him.
Mr. Berg took issue with both the award and the wording of the decision.
"The award was a miscarriage of justice," he said. "The arbitrator gave no explanation to justify his award and what claims he credited."
But Eric Turkewitz, who represented his father before Mr. Spiro, said an arbitrator is not required to make specific findings of fact or link the award to a particular claim.
Eric Turkewitz, who also worked at Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg as a medical malpractice attorney in the 1980s, said Abraham Fuchsberg had first tried during the arbitration hearing to claim that Bernard Turkewitz was an employee and not a partner, "despite 20 years of representations to the contrary throughout the legal community."
When the arbitrator quickly ruled that Bernard Turkewitz had indeed been a partner, Eric Turkewitz said, "a lot of us had a good laugh, congratulating my father on making partner."
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