A Manhattan jury has awarded a Queens law firm $1.4 million in damages because several of its clients were stolen by a rookie lawyer at another firm.
The Supreme Court jury awarded the money to Rosenberg Minc, a personal injury firm that had sued another Queens personal injury firm, Mallilo & Grossman, and one of that firm’s lawyers for carrying out the client theft scheme.
Philip Vogt, lawyer for the Rosenberg Minc firm, said Thursday that about $450,000 must be paid by the lawyer, Mason Pimsler, and the rest by Mallilo & Grossman. The jury found that the firm had in effect authorized Pimsler’s actions.
Vogt said trial evidence showed that Pimsler, a 1997 graduate of Touro Law School, called Rosenberg Minc’s answering service every weekend between March 1998 and May 1999, pretended to be a partner in the firm and collected messages.
Pimsler used the messages to contact Rosenberg Minc’s potential clients, meet them and get them to sign retainer agreements for Mallilo & Grossman, Vogt said.
The lawyer said records showed that between Jan. 1, 1999, and May 7, 1999, Pimsler made 50 calls from his home in Jericho, N.Y., to Rosenberg Minc’s answering service. Vogt said he showed that Pimsler signed up at least a dozen clients from those calls.
Rosenberg Minc learned that its calls were being intercepted when a client who had spoken to Pimsler called to complain that a car service had not arrived to pick him up.
Pimsler was arrested in May 1999 in a sting by detectives who left three messages with Rosenberg Minc’s answering service. Pimsler returned each call, Vogt said, and was retained by one of the detectives at a meeting at Mallilo & Grossman’s offices.
Vogt said Pimsler denied stealing clients. The defendant claimed he never succeeded at reaching any client except the detective in the sting operation.
Court papers show that Pimsler pleaded guilty in Queens Criminal Court on July 30, 1999, to second-degree criminal impersonation and was sentenced by Judge Joseph Grosso to three years probation. Pimsler was disbarred in October 2001.
Vogt said senior lawyers at Mallilo & Grossman should have been suspicious that Pimsler, as a first-year associate, was generating so much business.