But in the two months since Judge Nancy McDonnell’s order, the opponents in a $3.5 billion lawsuit have continued to wage a war of words that is embroiling one of the leading asbestos-litigation firms in the country, Kelley & Ferraro of Cleveland.
Upset by the tenor of the news coverage, Ferraro chose recently to disregard the gag order and appeal to the court of public opinion.
“I’m at the point now where enough is enough. I’m really taking some hits from her,” the Miami-based lawyer said in a telephone interview.
“Her whole intent is to portray herself as the poor widow and me as the bad guy. But that’s hardly the case.”
Kelley, a former attorney at her husband’s law firm, won’t talk publicly about the lawsuit, but is far from defenseless. With the aid of friends and supporters inside and outside the firm, she is waging a guerrilla PR campaign against Ferraro that has him frustrated and, at times, furious.
Ferraro said all of the unflattering publicity has been bad for business.
Since the death of founder Michael Kelley on Jan. 2 and the subsequent fallout between Ferraro and Lynn Kelley, six of the firm’s lawyers, plus 13 other employees, have quit or been fired.
To further stir the caldron at the firm’s Key Tower offices, someone mailed three poison-pen letters to the spouses of lawyers, accusing their husbands and wife of engaging in extramarital affairs. Another letter, sent to a managing partner’s home in Orange, had white powder inside, and police are investigating.
“It’s a crazy situation over there,” Ferraro said. “I’ve been trying to sit back and take it, but I don’t want the firm to be hurt anymore.”