Representing attorneys to collect their unpaid fees often makes me feel gratified; “I got your back.” But sometimes, no matter how inventive we can be, and no matter what efforts we try, something still can go awry, and no matter how good an attorney you are, you cannot get the results you want for your client.
Enter the wealthy, successful physician, whom I will refer to as “Vinnie McMahon”. McMahon was married to his wife, “Lindy”. McMahon was extremely wealthy, with tremendous assets in the form of real property, seasonal residences in Parts Unknown, and collector cars. McMahon was also the primary partner of a lucrative medical practice, with over ten other partners. McMahon was a specialist who also lectured and was a member of many medical societies. During that success, McMahon achieved, while his wife raised their three children. Unfortunately, McMahon was also a misogynist, and philandered with at least one mistress.
As such, Lindy hired an attorney, the hero, whom I will refer to as “Stone Cold” to represent her, while McMahon hired a team of world-renowned attorneys, to handle the divorce. During the divorce proceedings, Stone Cold was able to provide for the maximum wage garnishment as provided by law, to be paid to Lindy for child support. Stone Cold also negotiated a liquidation of the collector cars, with proceeds to be shared. Lindy received the marital home, and they liquidated the seasonal residences. Stone Cold even had all the medical practices’ income placed into a trust, and the trustee disperse funds to the three children for their education. Stone Cold did a hero’s job. Sadly, Lindy, having no career to speak of, lacked any funds to pay Stone Cold’s fee. As such, the Court awarded Stone Cold attorneys fees, to be paid by McMahon.
Here’s the problem: Stone Cold did such a tremendous job for his client, there was nothing left. McMahon was left with no attachable nor executable assets.
As such, Stone Cold retained our firm. We confirmed all of the above, and found nothing. Total lack of assets. We conducted the post-judgment deposition of McMahon. He was entirely transparent, and showed that he had absolutely no income, that was not already garnished. His business income was in trust. All he had was a baseball card collection.
In the meantime, I was embroiled in a series of cases before the Honorable Judge Penguin (regular followers of Tales From the Front will remember him!), and in one such case, I represented a medical provider in a dispute regarding the calculation of co-insurance on a health insurance policy. In that case, I learned something intriguing: when a physician enrolls as a participant with Undertaker Insurance Company, they do not do so on behalf of their medical practice, but rather only as a specific individual.
As such, I made the connection that perhaps, if McMahon had a contract with the Undertaker Insurance Company, it would be in his personal name! I immediately drafted subpoenas. In less than 3 minutes and 16 seconds, McMahon’s attorneys started bringing motions to quash and motions for protective orders. The Court scheduled everything for a hearing, and I had to bring Stone Cold in to testify, and even subpoenaed Paul Bearer the Undertaker Insurance Company, who confirmed my belief. The Court seemed to be looking to rule in our favor!
Then, McMahon’s attorneys brought a motion for a stay, and a motion to re-open the divorce, and modify the wording, to encompass the Undertaker Insurance Company proceeds. The motion was consolidated into my proceedings, and the Judge for the hearing even brought in the Judge who presided over the divorce.
As a result, the Judge who presided over the divorce held that the intent of the divorce decree, was to make it so McMahon did not have any of his own funds. Therefore, if any of Undertaker Insurance Company’s funds were being taken by McMahon personally, they should be returned, and redirected to the medical practice trust.
So sometimes, I might be able to make the best argument ever, and win, but still not win for my client. My client, who was the best attorney ever.
Timothy Wan is a partner in the firm Smith Carroad Levy & Wan, in Commack, New York, and can be reached at email@example.com. The characters named in this Tale are based on characters that the names resemble and not real people. Any similarity to actual people was not intended, and that’s the bottom line, ‘cause I said so.