The Real Deal New York

Lawyers’ demand for $500K from co-op owners “highway robbery,” judge says

Greenberg Traurig attorneys successfully represented Seward Park in case brought by homeowners
July 22, 2018 06:00PM

Lawyers who demanded half a million dollars in legal fees from co-op owners at Seward Park on the Lower East Side were looking to carry out “highway robbery without the six-gun,” a Manhattan judge said.

Attorneys from Greenberg Traurig asked Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron to force four Seward Park co-op owners to fork over $464,000 in legal fees, the New York Post reported.

The homeowners sued the management over parking spaces, and Greenberg attorneys representing the building won a preliminary motion to dismiss the case.

But Judge Engoron noted that the “staggering sum” was enough to buy a one-bedroom apartment in an Upper East Side doorman building or a four-bedroom home in Nassau County.

“By requesting astronomical fees, attorneys are in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” Engoron wrote in his ruling, in which he clipped the fees by nearly 40 percent to $175,000.

A spokesperson for Greenberg Traurig said the company “respectfully disagree[s] with the characterization of our firm’s fees in this matter on which our client prevailed.”

Tom Stebbins, executive director of the nonprofit Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York advocacy organization, agreed with Engoron’s view that attorney fees have gotten out of control.

“We continually hear stories of law firms over-billing by hundreds of thousands of dollars and class action lawyers that pocket the majority of large settlements, leaving little or nothing for the plaintiffs,” he told the Post.

In an unrelated matter, the Seward Park board last month voted against selling the property’s development rights to the Ascend group for $54 million. [NYP]Rich Bockmann