by Structured Settlement Watchdog®
Personal injury lawyers ARE representing structured settlement payment buyers such as JG Wentworth, Woodbridge and Stone Street Capital and, in that capacity, work to serve their profit margins off the backs of accident victims, lead paint poisoning victims and wrongful death victims who were/are clients of other trial lawyers in the state, while maintaining an active personal injury practice "fiercely representing" tort victims? Should there be any ethical concerns?
The personal injury attorneys who engage in this "double life" ultimately serve the profit margins of the structured settlement buyer because they are advocating for a transaction to be approved at a price that is set by their master in such transactions. Often the very same population these "double life" lawyers serve in one life may be screwed for cents on the dollar in the other life. Following is a good example.
On February 3, 2008, I reported about a Providence Journal news story where Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel refused to allow a 28 year old tort victim to sell a chunk of a structured settlement she had been receiving from a childhood injury unless the factoring company, Stone Street Capital came close to the present value with its offer.
As quoted by Staff Writer, Edward Fitzpatrick in the Providence Journal (Note: article has been since archived by ProJo, comments are from my contemporaneous quotes), Judge Vogel told Stone Street's Cranston, RI based attorney, Christopher L. Russo, a personal injury lawyer: "This is not in this woman’s best interest. You should not be recommending it because you’re an honorable man. You should get on the phone and call them up…. You tell them this woman, in light of the fact she’s got practically nothing left because the vultures, the vultures, the vultures who preyed on her already, that it has to be close to the present value before I consider it.”
Russo, who is a personal injury lawyer presented the transfer petition to the Rhode Island Court is scolded by the judge "you should not be recommending it". An "honorable man" who usually represents tort victims recommended the lofty discount rate because his master was Stone Street Capital. The optics looked bad then. In my opinion, they still do.
So do the optics for New York's Paris & Chaikin, which is defending 3 lawsuits brought by structured settlement buyers, JG Wentworth, Stone Street Capital and Woodbridge Structured Funding over 117 alleged falsified structured settlement transfer orders by a former paralegal, maintains an active personal injury practice according to its website. No matter how good personal injury attorneys are at their profession, how can a firm hold themselves out as "the leaders in New York personal injury law", be an advocate for tort victims on the one hand, the settlements for which may or may not be appropriate for structured settlements, and then advocate for companies that provide a needed service to the same population of victims, but often at rates that could be considered unreasonable.
Then you have the CES Law Group of Derwood, MD whose principal, another personal injury lawyer Charles E. Smith, who is being sued for legal malpractice with questions raised over the adequacy of his structured settlement IPA for Mary Alice Rose. According to a legal complaint, Charles E. Smith allegedly advised an illiterate, intellectually disabled young woman on the sale of a structured settlement (designed to protect her throughout her lifetime) for a small and severely discounted amount of cash, without meeting her or providing counsel on the potential consequences of selling the structured settlement payments. Research performed by the Washington Post in connection with the alleged predation by Chevy Chase based Access Funding against poor lead poisoned blacks in Baltimore suggests that Smith did over 50 IPAs for Access Funding using the same brief letter he used for Mary Alice Rose.
"Rising Star" in MD/DC , Michael Bramnick of Bramnick Legal in Bethesda, MD solicits both personal injury victims, factoring companies and investors, according to his website.
Stephen E. Heretick, the Portsmouth Virginia city councilman and go to lawyer for structured settlement buyers, who is representing 123 Lump Sum in their lawsuit against penniless amputee burn victim Terrence Taylor, after representing 123 Lump Sum and others in 11 transactions over 2 years that left Terrence Taylor and his dependent child with nothing, also does personal injury work. According to his website, "Steve is highly selective in his approach to personal injury litigation. Steve has been called upon individually and as local counsel to represent both individual and corporate Plaintiffs and Defendants in personal injury, wrongful death, and complex business litigation in state and federal courts throughout Virginia"
In my opinion lawmakers seeking to improve any new regulation to improve the structured settlement secondary market, should investigate the business practices of personal injury law firms who also represent structured settlement buyers to assure that fair representation is always the order of the day.