- a law office
- Schwächter sought to amend the settlement after conditions deteriorated
- BakerHostetler, insurer fought bid to fix settlement
(Reuters) – The former Baker & Hostetler partner of Washington, D.C., who was injured in a 2017 bicycle accident and is now a quadriplegic, lost a bid for more disability coverage on Thursday.
A three-member panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia’s Supreme Court, said lawyers sought to amend an earlier $1.05 million settlement to cover future medical costs after conditions worsened. Decided against Melvin Schwechter.
The appeals panel heard debate in October about whether the terms of the contract were open to amendment. BakerHostetler and its insurer, who opposed Schwechter’s claim modification, denied liability as part of the settlement.
The court was unanimous in its judgment against Schwechter, who has led BakerHostetler’s international trade and compliance operations since 2012 as a non-equity partner.
Judge Roy Maclise III told a panel of the DC Court of Appeals, which included Judges Catherine Eastley and Jon Howard, that “the agreement in this case is the “complete and final statement” of all claims arising out of the accident. It stipulated that it was a “realistic and complete solution”. III. “Mr. Schwächter also expressly acknowledged that this agreement prohibits all future recovery of claims or compensation.”
The Court of Appeals decision, it said, refused to reach “the broader question of whether lump-sum settlements could be modified” under certain DC laws.
Adrian Gucovschi, a lawyer for Schwechter, told Reuters on Thursday that the appeals court “had made a very tough decision. It’s a shame.” Gucovschi called Schwechter’s situation “very tragic”.
In an earlier interview last year, he said, “It is heartbreaking that a law firm, a very reputable law firm, has decided not to compensate one of its partners.”
According to his attorney, on the weekend of a BakerHostetler partner get-together in 2017, Schwechter was riding his bike when it “went out of control” in the rain. Court documents showed he suffered a “severe traumatic head injury.”
Gucovschi says Schwechter is unable to walk on his own and is up only a few hours a day.
Representatives for the Cleveland-based BakerHostetler, which has 1,000 attorneys, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Thursday.
Naureen Weissman of Franklin & Prokopik, who argued in the Court of Appeals of BakerHostetler and its carrier Pacific Indemnity Co, also did not immediately respond to similar messages.
“Without a final determination, there is no point in a full and final settlement,” Weisman told the Court of Appeals panel at oral argument in October.
The case is Melvin Schwechter v. District of Columbia, Department of Employment Services, DC Court of Appeals, No. 22-AA-7.
To petitioner: Adrian Gucovschi of Gucovschi Rozenshteyn
Interventions Baker & Hostetler and Pacific Indemnity Co: Naureen Weissman of Franklin & Prokopik
Law firm BakerHostetler says a former partner was paralyzed after a bicycle accident.
(Update: This report has been updated with comments from former BakerHostetler partner attorneys.)
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