LI man sued by his own lawyer who helped him win landmark lawsuit
A Long Island man who received a historic multimillion-dollar verdict after fracturing his skull years ago is now battling his former lawyer for more than $5.5million – because ‘greed counsel knows no bounds,” according to new court documents.
Mark Perez was sued last month by his ex-lawyer Benedict Morelli – who claims he is entitled to the $5.5million in legal fees, on top of the more than $18million Perez has already paid him, documents show filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“I think lawyers should be paid well for their work, a person like me needs them to fight for them, but for Mr. Morelli to take so much out of the settlement, it just seems wrong,” he recently said. writes Perez to the judge. oversaw his personal injury trial.
Perez, 38, originally received a $102 million jury verdict in 2019 after suing Live Nation for a fall six years earlier that left him with a broken skull and requiring multiple brain surgeries. A forklift had crashed into a 10-foot-tall booth Perez was working on, sending him collapsing at the Jones Beach Marine Theater.
Perez and Morelli originally agreed that the famed personal injury attorney would receive one-third of the award as a contingency fee. But when the verdict went on appeal, Morelli repeatedly tried to negotiate an additional 10% fee, while Perez sought to pay the attorney an hourly rate, according to Perez’s counterclaims to the suit that Morelli filed against him last month.
Morelli continued to work on the case — although Perez reportedly never signed an additional fee agreement — and ultimately secured his client a $55 million settlement with Live Nation’s insurers outside of the city. court of appeal.
In the end, Perez only received about $28 million from the settlement. The $5.5 million is being held in an escrow account while Perez fights for his return, in addition to any fees he paid Morelli.
“[Morelli] continues to insist that he be paid $5.5 million for post-trial and appeal work (on top of the $18,333,333.30 Mr. Perez has already paid in legal fees), demonstrating that the Morelli’s greed knows no bounds,” Perez’s counterclaim alleges.
In the letter to the judge, dated Dec. 9, Perez added, “I am the one who lives with seizures, surgeries and the constant fear of more medical issues.
“I hope you can help me now by deciding what needs to be done here. Thank you for hearing my trial. I can’t wait to move on and put this latest upsetting situation behind me.
Perez also claims Morelli put him in the middle of a fee dispute with his first attorney — a distant relative — causing a rift in his family. And Perez alleges that Morelli failed to inform him of several prior settlement offers after the trial.
On Thursday, Morelli asked a judge to throw Perez’s counterclaims against him, arguing that he never agreed to Perez’s proposed hourly pay rate for call work.
Morelli claimed that Perez “chose to remain silent” on the additional 10% fee until the matter is over and a settlement is reached.
“Mr. Perez has accepted the benefits of the firm’s work with respect to the appeal, has not terminated the firm, and has not instructed the firm to stop working on the matter,” the authors wrote. Morelli’s lawyers in Thursday’s filing “He chose to remain silent while the firm completed the call and thereby ratified the 10% fee agreement.”
The aftermath of Perez’s fall on June 26, 2013 left him in need of full-time care and cost him his long-term relationship, Morelli told the Post shortly after the verdict.
Lawyers for both sides declined to comment.