Lawyer: Co-counsel is witholding nearly $900K in fees owed under clients' med-mal settlements

By Jonathan Bilyk | Oct 6, 2014

A Schaumburg lawyer has renewed his legal action against a Chicago law firm, contending that firm continues to improperly withhold nearly $900,000 in fees owed him as part of a multi-million dollar medical malpractice settlement he said he helped secure.

Attorney Clark Raymond, principal at Raymond & Raymond in Schaumburg, filed suit Sept. 22 in the Cook County Circuit Court against Kenneth Chessick, a Chicago medical doctor and lawyer specializing in medical malpractice litigation, over the unremitted attorney fees he contends he is owed under an agreement between the two law firms.

Raymond is represented in his action by attorneys Patricia L. Argentati and Shana A. O’Grady of Mulherin, Rehfeldt & Varchetto P.C. in Wheaton.

The case marks the recommencement of litigation between the two law practices first begun in 2008, when Raymond claims Chessick first refused to pay him the approximately $889,000 Raymond claims is owed to him.

Raymond voluntarily dismissed the complaint in September 2013, but refiled the suit just under a year later to again press his claim to the money.

The case stems from two settlement agreements Raymond claims he helped Chessick negotiate on behalf of mutual clients the two attorneys represented in medical malpractice actions against several northern Illinois hospital systems, including Centegra, which operates the hospital now known as Centegra Hospital – Woodstock in McHenry County; Mercy Health System, which operates Woodstock Medical Center; and Rockford Health Systems, which operates Rockford Memorial Hospital.

In his complaint, Raymond claims the clients, a couple who alleged medical malpractice surrounding the birth of their child, came to him for legal help first. He then introduced them to Chessick, and agreed to represent them with Chessick.

Raymond contends the terms of their counsel agreement entitled him to one-third of all attorney fees paid as part of any settlement or judgment in their favor.

After reaching a settlement with Centegra and Rockford Health in 2006, Raymond said he was paid his rightful share of the fees stemming from that settlement.

According to Raymond’s complaint, the court order approving the 2006 settlement agreement recognized the agreement, ordering Chessick to receive two-thirds of the legal fees, and Raymond as the “referring attorney” to receive the remaining third.

In 2008, the clients reached a settlement agreement with Mercy Health and another defendant. However, Raymond said Chessick did not notify him of that settlement agreement, and submitted it to the court for ratification without his assent.

Under that agreement, plaintiffs’ lawyers were awarded almost $2.67 million in fees. Raymond said he should be entitled to $888,888.

But , Raymond alleges in the time since, Chessick has refused to pay him those fees, and has gone so far as to encourage their clients to fire Raymond and retain Chessick alone.

Raymond maintains he was “a major factor” in negotiating both settlement agreements, having deposed various witnesses and counseled the couple, while serving as the bridge that connected the couple with Chessick to initiate litigation altogether.

But for his efforts, Raymond contends, Chessick “would not have met and represented” the couple.

In his 12-count complaint, Raymond alleges breach of conduct, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment against Chessick. For each count, he has asked the court to award him not just the $889,000 he claims he is owed, but also 5-percent interest for each year from 2008 to the time of any judgment the court may deliver a judgment in his favor.

Further, under the breach of fiduciary duty count, Raymond asked the court to award him the full $2.67 million in attorney fees awarded under the 2008 settlement, plus unspecified punitive damages and 5-percent annual interest.

In that count, Raymond argues Chessick, through his alleged refusal to pay Raymond what he claims he is owed, has “relinquished and forfeited his right to attorneys’ fees from the 2008 settlement.”

Court records show the case has been set for a status call on Nov. 20.

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