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May 31, 1996 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

e

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Two of Detroit's high-octane personal-injury law
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13 GENERAIIONS



HONESTY

I

10

DEPENDABILMT

utraged by the absurd in- member, is semi-retired.
justice of it, Sheldon Miller
Fieger, Fieger & Schwartz is
was moved to offer his ser- also undergoing a major expan-
vices, free of charge, to a sion at its longtime location on 10
fellow lawyer accused of legal Mile and Evergreen roads in
malpractice by a'doctor he sued Southfield, so a merged law firm
on behalf of an aggrieved patient. would operate out of two loca-
In getting the case thrown out, tions. Mr. Miller said his firm had
Mr. Miller effectively halted fu- already signed a four-year lease
ture lawsuits by doctors tempted at the Town Center when he and
to sue the attorneys who helped Mr. Fieger started talking about
patients sue them.
a merger.
"Doctors were bitching about
For all its notoriety, Fieger,
malpractice, that they couldn't Fieger & Schwartz has only sev-
make a living," he laughed.
en attorneys, including principals
In temperament and profes- Mr. Fieger and former Attorney
sional expertise, he is not unlike Grievance Commission head
his good friend attorney Geoffrey Michael Schwartz.
Fieger, a bulldog who rarely miss-
But the merger would make
es an opportunity to pull some- the reconfigured law firm one of
body's chain or to rush in where the largest plaintiff personal-in-
less intrepid souls would not. He jury firms in the state.
also doesn't mince words.
And one of the most powerful,
Two years ago, for example, he Oakland County Circuit Court
fired off a letter to President Clin- Judge Barry Howard said.
ton, offering his legal services
"It gives Geoffrey the backup,
gratis, to defend the chief execu- which he really needs. He's so
tive against "vile" allegations of busy and has so many irons in the
sexual harassment by Paula fire, and he doesn't have enough
Jones. He remarked that it was trial backup to help him out," he
a matter of patriotic duty.
said. "It will allow the Fieger firm
It is widely assumed, and Mr. to feed cases to the Lopatin firm
Fieger has never denied it, that and allow the Lopatin firm to give
his tireless legal jousting on be- Fieger the backup he needs. On
half of his most famous client, Dr. paper, theoretically, it's a great
Jack Kevorkian, is also essen- merger. I think it'll be a real pow-
tially free of charge.
erhouse."
Now there's talk that these two
Nearly three years ago, Mr.
legal sharpshooters are planning Fieger won an $18 million jury
to join forces.
award in a case involving a
Mr. Miller, 60, said he and Mr. botched delivery by Botsford Hos-
Fieger, 45, are discussing a merg- pital — the second-largest award
er of Lopatin, Miller, Freedman, in Oakland County Circuit Court
Bluestone, Herskovic & Heil- history.
mann, P.C., and Fieger, Fieger &
Lopatin, Miller has chalked up
Schwartz, P.C.
its share of multi-million dollar
"The deal is not done. It's a verdicts, too. A federal court jury
monumental decision if we do it," last year ordered an out-of-state
Mr. Miller remarked.
bus company to pay $4.6 million
Albert Lopatin, the firm's to a family whose child was
founder, is "semi-retired," and, he thrown out of a careening bus on
said, has "divorced myself from an expressway outside Grand
the decision."
Rapids. Mr. Miller, who proudly
Mr. Fieger, fresh from a third notes his inclusion in a book by
acquittal of Dr. Kevorkian on as- Joseph Goulden called Million
sisted suicide charges, refused to Dollar Lawyers, represented the
comment on a possible merger, family.
saying he'll hold a press confer- _ Another Lopatin, Miller part-
ence if and when it happens.
ner whose name isn't yet on the
Lopatin, Miller, in the mean- firm's letterhead, Robert C. Do-
time, is packing up its law offices mol, won a $41 million verdict a
in downtown Detroit for a long- few years back on behalf of four
awaited June 1 move to South- people who burned to death in a
field's Prudential Town Center. northern Michigan cabin when a
About 20 of the firm's 33 attor- defective coffeemaker shorted out.
neys and 50 or so support staff
The firm, though, is most no-
will occupy 16,000 square feet on table for a precedent-setting case
the 17th floor of the 3000 tower. that led to a change in 1979 in the
A few attorneys won't make the state's negligence laws. Mr. Miller
move to Southfield, while others led the charge in Placek v. Ster-
will staff an office the law firm in- ling Heights, which replaced con-
tends to maintain in the city. Al- tributory negligence with
bert Lopatin, the firm's founding comparative negligence. The law



111

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