Ex-client sues lawyer Chad Hemmat over "toothless cooties" case

Categories: Business, News

Chad Hemmat.jpg
Chad Hemmat.
The law firm of Anderson, Hemmat & Levine doesn't keep its light under a bushel. Commercials and billboards across the Front Range boast of how hard the personal-injury firm fights for its clients. The AHL website proclaims that "Justice for Victims Begins Here."

But a disgruntled former client is seeking another form of justice in a Denver courtroom this week, claiming that AHL is a "settlement mill" that pressured her to settle her auto-accident case for a fraction of what it was worth -- and that attorney Chad Hemmat referred to her and her husband as "toothless cooties."

The trial now under way in Judge Edward Bronfin's court exposes some of the grim economic realities of the personal-injury business, in which attorneys operating on a contingency basis -- usually a third or more of any settlement reached -- lure clients by touting their commitment to individual service and a track record of hefty cash verdicts. In practice, though, roughly 2 percent of such cases ever go to trial, and most clients have little contact with the attorneys who are negotiating their settlements with insurance companies.

The plaintiff, Daniell Goff, hired Hemmat's firm after she and her husband were injured in an auto accident in 2008. AHL filed a lawsuit against the other motorist, and Goff settled her claim in 2009 for a total of $92,000 -- including $12,000 set aside for shoulder surgery. But after expenses and attorney fees, she ended up recovering only about $20,000; the law firm's contingency fee amounted to $26,666.

In court filings Goff's attorney, Patric LeHouillier, contends that her case was potentially worth millions; that the firm hurried the settlement without considering their client's long-term medical needs; that AHL failed to uncover a million-dollar umbrella policy held by the driver's father, also an attorney, who'd been dismissed from the case; that AHL has tried only 19 lawsuits in the past ten years while settling 99.7 percent of its cases, including a whopping 678 cases closed in 2009 alone; and that the average case involves merely ten hours of attorney time. "Ms. Goff was never informed that the firm's business model involved a high volume of cases with little attorney participation," he writes.

Hemmat and his attorneys dispute many of LeHouillier's claims; for example, Hemmat testified yesterday that the 678 cases "closed" in 2009 represent many "open" files stretching back to 2003 and isn't a reflection of actual annual volume. They insist it was Goff's decision to settle the case and that she now has "buyer's remorse." They also suggest that her ongoing shoulder problems are the result of "repetitive over use resulting from years of manual labor" -- she and her husband used to rehab houses for real estate firms -- rather than the car accident, and that she was fortunate to get the settlement she did, given the ambiguity of her injuries and other issues with the case.

"There was no negligence, no malpractice, no fraud," Hemmat attorney Cecelia Fleischner told the jury.

Fleischner indicated that the mediator who presided over the Goff settlement negotiations would testify that the couple wasn't pressured to settle their case. But the jury will also have to decide how much weight to give a series of e-mails between Hemmat and an associate, Ethan McQuinn, on the day of the settlement conference. Hemmat hadn't even met the Goffs in person, yet that morning when he fired off a message to McQuinn about the case: "I don't think it's going to settle. But, my clients, I understand, are toothless koodies [sic] so not sure how much an Arapahoe jury of Marilyn McQuinns [Ethan's mother] will want to give them. Defendant, recall, is a robot."

McQuinn echoed the phrase in a response: "I don't have enough trial experience to know if her explanation that all money went to Vernon [Goff] would sell. They are toothless cooties though so I'm not hopeful."

Hemmat's attorneys filed a motion to try to keep the e-mails from being disclosed to the jury, insisting that they weren't relevant and would become "a sideshow that takes over the circus." The cootie references were simply "shorthand, sarcastic comments" reflecting a concern over how the defense might portray the Goffs if the case went to trial. But Judge Bronfin ruled that they could be presented, and LeHouillier brought them up in his opening remarks.

Fleischner explained that Hemmat was merely doing his job: "It's a lawyer's job to assess how someone is going to appear to a jury."

Other e-mails from McQuinn expressed puzzlement that the mediation was happening "so early" in the process -- but also relief that the case had settled before the defense obtained an independent medical examiner's report that could have taken the additional $12,000 for surgery costs out of the package.

LeHouiller has argued that the e-mails "evince an attitude of betrayal. The lawyers did not care what their clients wanted or needed but were simply out to make a quick buck on the backs of 'toothless kooties.'"

The verdict? Stay tuned. In the meantime, the AHL website continues to promise prospective clients that "your case, big or small, WILL be treated with professionalism, and you WILL ALWAYS be treated with respect."

For another hot legal trial, see Alan Prendergast's "Blackburned," about Mark Brennan, the lawyer who took on the Denver Fire Department


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8 comments
spoely
spoely

Before labeling Mr. Chad Hemmat as a greedy ambulance chasing attorney, I think you should hear from a former client that worked for over 18 months on a one to one basis with him.

That person is my self, I will leave my name out, the truth is that it does not matter to Mr. Chad Hemmat he treats all people with respect client or not.

Mr. Hemmat not only got me well compensated for my injuries in this matter, but more importantly, did the right thing! I have been a working class person all my life and have always been the best and hardest working employee at any job I have had. So I appreciate people that go above and beyond the call of duty.In all my years in the work force I have never seen anyone more prepared to do there job, down to the smallest detail! My case went to trial and Mr. Hemmat got me a verdict over 8 times the the amount the insurance company had last offered. His excellent trial skills and work ethic are unparalleled. He put even my work ethic to shame. I would recommend Anderson Hemmat and McQuinn to anyone. If put in the situation again, they would be not my first choice-they would be my ONLY ONE!

In late September of 2011, i had taken a trip to Denver from South Dakota and ha just rented a car and was on the way to see my best friend of forty-five years. 

I was stopped at a red light at around midnight. I was the only one on a four lane street. that is when I was rear ended by a drunk driver, whose blood alcohol was over two times the legal limit. 

I called 911. Police arrived and arrested the drunk driver. Because it was a short trip, after this accident and all that came with it, I had no time to see my life long friend. He died of cancer last November

Upon returning to my home town, I had my doctor look at my shoulder that had a sharp pain from the accident. It was at that time he wanted me to get an MRI in order to diagnose the problem.

When I went to get the MRI, they asked me for my insurance information. I felt that I should not have to pay for medical care, because it was the drunk driver's fault. Because the MRI cost 3500.00, I decided that i needed to seek legal counsel. I looked for attorneys in the Denver area and decided that  Mr. Chad Hemmat would be a good choice.I did not think that an attorney like Mr. Hemmat would want anything to do with a plow boy form South Dakota. I decided to give it a shot anyway.

It turns out that was the best phone call I could have made.

After consulting with the people at this law firm, I returned to the hospital and found out that I did have a torn rotator cuff as a result of this accident. Unfortunately, I needed surgery to repair it. the biggest loss to me however was that I had to miss the annual motorcycle trip with my best fiend due to this injury. Because he died, there will never be another trip. Those trips for me were priceless to me!

From the very first time I called Anderson, Hemmat, McQuinn, I was treated with the utmost respect and professional courtesy.the firm guided me in every aspect, down to the smallest details of the case. I would have been totally lost as to what to do for my best interest. I wanted the right thing to be done, and I knew that if if I just let the drunk driver's insurance company handle things, they would do what was best for them. 

These company's do not have there insured best interest in mind, they only look at the bottom line and how much money they can make.Anderson, Hemmat, McQuinn, did every thing imaginable to help me and to make the insurance company pay a fair amount. 

If you feel someone is not being fair, or treating you badly do not let them push you around. stand up to them. Make them do the right thing! Anderson, Hemmat and McQuinn are the best ones to have in your corner.        

ZzipIt
ZzipIt

Forget about how many cases they settle and how much money they rake in.  Chad Hemmat is a poor human being.  I have worked with him personally, and I know how he runs a business.  To him, personal injury isn't a practice; it's a ruthless game of power and prestige.  (Is it really necessary to have more billboards with your face on it than Starbucks stores?)  Not only does he have a lack of respect for his clients, he treats his support staff as disposable people.  As a client, you will know that his support staff is a revolving door.  It's not about the quality of people or the quality of work, it's about how cheap can he hire an attractive, young lady to do his dirty work.  His support staff stay after hours, overworked and under-appreciated.  Can someone please find out how many people he has hired and fired since 2010?  Since I worked with him for part of this time frame, I'm willing to guess he has hired/fired 8 people.  He can't even treat his own team with respect, let alone his clients.     

 

Rumor has it that he has had an affair with at least 1 of his paralegal's.  I cannot confirm that rumor, but I can say that I have heard him throw around absurdly crude jokes to his staff.  What does he say when his office door is closed?  Perhaps someone has one of those conversations on tape?  This isn't an discussion of 'free speech.'  This is a discussion of being a respectful human being, an ethical attorney to his clients and providing "Justice for Victims."  

 

 Chad has all of his teeth and he has the money to repair the teeth of all of his "toothless" clients.  But don't expect to get any compassion from him.  I am happy to see that his true colors are published in the local newspaper.

 

mmrady
mmrady

This story is unbelievably biased.  The client sued the law firm LONG before the "toothless cootie" email was discovered.  The emails were private communications that the client knew nothing about until the law firm turned over the emails during the case.  Would an unethical law firm have turned over emails that put them in a bad light?  

So since she had no idea the emails existed, what exactly was she suing for?  This is truly a case of buyer's remorse.  She decided to settle her case based on the evidence and then regretted it and decided to sue her lawyers.  After all, because they are well known, she probably thinks the jury won't like them.  But juries are smart.  They will see through it.  

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

PLEASE KEEP US UP TO DATE ON THIS CASE !!!

Add this to your ever-growing story list of REAL %99'ers &

their quests for nothing more than a fair shake.

Excellent piece that effects if not each reader,

someone they hold close, can personally relate.

lolitad9999
lolitad9999

 @Juan_Leg Check out www.snakebit.info - tells the real truth about personal injury attorneys.

ZzipIt
ZzipIt

   @mmrady Let me take a guess.  You are Ethan McQuinn or Andrew Phillips?

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