Law firm BakerHostetler says ex-partner paralyzed after biking accident no longer owed

  • Firm says Melvin Schwechter’s $1m settlement is ‘full and final’
  • Schwechter’s attorney says the edit is allowed

(Reuters) – U.S. law firm Baker & Hostetler is fighting a former partner’s efforts to seek additional disability compensation following a biking accident at a firm-sponsored event in 2017 that left him left in a quadriplegic state.

An attorney representing former BakerHostetler partner Melvin Schwechter in a hearing on Wednesday urged the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to let his client vary a 2020 $1.05 million lump sum settlement to cover future medical expenses that were not previously included. The law firm, which has not admitted liability under the settlement, and its insurer are defending against the appeal.

The appeals court’s three-judge panel peppered both sides with questions for an hour as the court considered whether the terms of Schwechter’s compensation settlement and relevant District of Columbia laws left open a window of change.

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“Why would anyone settle? Why would you give a lump sum settlement if within a year someone could come back and say, ‘Thank you so much for the lump sum, but I need more’ “, asked the judge Catharine Easterly during the hearing.

Easterly and panel judges Roy McLeese III and John Howard III questioned whether the DC agency that rejected Schwechter’s change offer last year looked closely at the terms of his settlement before ruling against him. .

Schwechter had led BakerHostetler’s international trade and compliance practice since arriving there in 2012 as a non-participating partner in the firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf.

He crashed his bike on a rainy Saturday in May 2017 the weekend of a BakerHostetler partner retreat in the DC metro area.

His condition has since deteriorated, Schwechter’s attorney Adrian Gucovschi said. Schwechter is only awake for a few hours a day, his attorney said, and he cannot walk on his own.

“It’s extremely tragic what happened,” Gucovschi said in an interview after Wednesday’s hearing. “It’s also heartbreaking that the law firm, a very reputable law firm, has decided not to indemnify one of its associates.”

On Wednesday, representatives for BakerHostetler, a Cleveland-based company with 1,000 attorneys, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Naureen Weissman of Franklin & Prokopik, who has argued for BakerHostetler and Pacific Indemnity Co, also did not immediately respond to a similar message.

“This contract that we are here today specifically stated that it released the liability of the employer,” Weissman told the appeals court judges.

She argued that the wording of Schwechter’s settlement was “very, very clear” that BakerHostetler and its insurer were not liable for past or future medical treatment.

“If there is no finality, then there is no point in a full and final settlement,” Weissman said in court.

The case is Melvin Schwechter v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, DC Court of Appeals, No. 22-AA-7.

For the petitioner: Adrian Gucovschi of Gucovschi Rozenshteyn

For the intervener Baker & Hostetler and Pacific Indemnity Co: Naureen Weissman of Franklin & Prokopik

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