Chicago attorney Jeffery M. Leving, who extensively
advertises his expertise in fighting for “fathers rights,” has been accused by
an area dad of billing “outrageous” amounts to represent him in a child custody
dispute, and now an insurance company has said it wants no part of defending
Leving against the malpractice allegations.
On July 19, Wesco Insurance
Company filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking a declaratory judgment
to clarify it has no obligation to defend or indemnify Leving in the case.
Charoun Chouskoglou, of Sycamore,
hired Leving in February to represent him in child custody matters relating to
his divorce. Legal proceedings took about six weeks, during which the lawyer
and his eponymous firm, per Chouskoglou’s Cook County Circuit Court complaint
filed in April, engaged in a “feeding frenzy” of billing totaling roughly
$80,000. Chouskoglou paid about $39,000 of the total before formally accusing
Leving of malpractice.
According to his complaint,
Chouskoglou “complied in all ways with all terms and conditions” of his oral
agreement with Leving, “until his further performance was frustrated and made
impossible by Leving’s charging of clearly excessive and outrageous legal
Chouskoglou said Leving’s fees
“were outrageous, unreasonable and for much unnecessary work,” including
failure to track time spent on the case, billing “excessive amounts of times for
tasks” that reasonably could have been completed much more quickly, repeatedly
drafting routine documents at attorney rates instead of assigning the tasks to
nonlawyers, billing attorney time for administrative duties, using multiple
attorneys to review each other’s work without need, assigning work to other attorneys
without Chouskoglou’s consent, billing excessive time for conferences and court
appearances and failing to follow Chouskoglou’s instructions.
According to Chouskoglou, the
reasonable fee should have been $5,000 or less. In addition to a jury trial and
legal fees, he wants his $39,000 returned and a finding that he owes no more
money to Leving.
Chouskoglou, as an interested party with respect to
availability of insurance coverage, is a named defendant in Wesco’s motion for judgment.
In its motion, Wesco argues that under Leving’s policy, the concept of
“damages” is not applicable to disputes over attorney’s fees. Since Chouskoglou
is only seeking to have his money returned — pursuing disgorgement instead
of seeking punitive damages — Wesco argues it is not obligated to defend or
Further, the insuring agreement in Wesco’s policy states
“coverage is afforded only for claims arising from an act or omission in the
insured’s performance of ‘legal services.’ ” Wesco said the Chouskoglou
complaint against Leving is essentially a billing dispute, and therefore
ineligible for an insurance claim.
Wesco seeks a declaration supporting its assertions, relief
as appropriate and compensation for its legal fees in the motion.
Wesco is represented in this matter by Cozen O’Connor, of Chicago.
Chouskoglou is represented in his case against Leving by the
firm of Gauthier & Gooch, of Wauconda.