A Baltimore County judge yesterday denied motions by lemon-law firm Kimmel & Silverman to reopen 30 cases dismissed with prejudice, most for failure of discovery, telling the firm that its clients may still seek financial remedies through another avenue.
The Pennsylvania-based firm opened a Maryland office in Owings Mills in the summer of 2004 and hired one attorney to staff it. By the time that attorney, Robyn Glassman-Katz, quit this August, she had filed about 400 cases, some of which were dismissed.
She later claimed in a deposition that she had been critically overworked and had begged her bosses to hire a paralegal or another lawyer. Kimmel & Silverman, which has maintained that Glassman-Katz never told them she was having trouble, is trying to get the dismissed cases reinstated.
Yesterday, before retired Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Cadigan, who has been called back to hear the lemon-law cases, new Kimmel & Silverman Maryland Managing Attorney Hy David Rubenstein apologized for the terrible situation that has brought us to this court today.
He said that situation is “beyond control of our firm and certainly beyond control of our clients.” Rubenstein argued that his clients should get to pursue their claims because Glassman-Katz’s mistakes were not their fault.
“They’ll still have a remedy should they choose to file a malpractice lawsuit against Miss Katz and possibly your law firm,” Cadigan said.
He also questioned Rubenstein’s argument that the firm’s partners, one of whom, Robert Silverman, came to court yesterday, did not know Glassman-Katz could not handle the work they gave her.
“You know, I practiced law for 30 years, Mr. Rubenstein,” Cadigan said. “I would not be comfortable handling 400 cases by myself without the assistance of other attorneys or paralegals.”
He chided the firm for not keeping a closer watch on Glassman-Katz, who had no prior experience managing an office or handling lemon-law cases. Rubenstein told the judge that, since Kimmel & Silverman’s cases are often settled very quickly, the firm had no reason to think Glassman-Katz would have trouble keeping up with the caseload.
Cadigan also said Rubenstein’s assertion that Kimmel & Silverman did not know their Maryland cases were being dismissed is incorrect. He awarded costs, but not attorney’s fees, to the defendants, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai.
Cadigan also encouraged lawyers for both sides to try to resolve the rest of Kimmel & Silverman’s Maryland lemon-law cases quickly, though he said he doubts they will dispose of even half the cases by the end of 2006.