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Ex-clients sue Peter Angelos, allege legal malpractice

Ex-clients sue Peter Angelos, allege legal malpractice

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Peter G. Angelos, shown in a 2014 photo, has been sued along with his law firm for malpractice by former clients whom his firm had represented in asbestos claims. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)
Peter G. Angelos, shown in a 2014 photo, has been sued along with his law firm for malpractice by former clients whom his firm had represented in asbestos claims. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)

Former clients of Peter G. Angelos have filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against the prominent asbestos litigator and his Baltimore firm, claiming the lawyers’ failure to timely file an enforcement action and fraud claim against an asbestos company and its insurers cost the clients a multimillion-dollar recovery.

By 1997, Angelos and his firm knew or should have known that MCIC Inc. and its insurers owed ex-clients more money than the companies had already paid in a 1994 settlement due to a flawed calculation, the ex-clients claimed. However the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos P.C. did not bring the enforcement action until 2002 and the fraud complaint until 2005, well beyond the three-year deadline for filing the motions, which expired in 2000, the complaint stated.

The trial courts dismissed those actions, dismissals that were ultimately upheld on appeal. In March 2018 Angelos informed the clients of the dismissal and told them they had the right to contact another attorney to pursue a potential claim against the firm for the too-late filings.

Several ex-clients, or representatives of their estates, followed through and contacted Paul S. Caiola, who filed suit on their behalf in Baltimore City Circuit Court last month.

“Angelos’s mismanagement of its clients’ claims against MCIC and its insurers will have lasting, generational effects on asbestos victims and their surviving relatives,” Caiola wrote in the complaint.

“Thousands of Maryland’s laborers, tradesmen, and asbestos installers were denied the full compensation they deserve due to Angelos’s failure to prosecute their claims within the three-year limitations period familiar to all Maryland attorneys,” added Caiola, of Gallagher Evelius & Jones in Baltimore. “All attorneys owe their clients a duty to exercise reasonable care in the course of their representation. Angelos breached its duty of reasonable care.”

Caiola, who requested a jury trial, has asked the circuit court to certify the case as a class action.

Armand J. Volta Jr., of the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC, declined on the firm’s behalf to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

Angelos is also the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball club.

According to the complaint, Angelos and his firm received notice of its potential enforcement action in 1997 when Maryland’s second-highest court ruled that injuries sustained during the installation of asbestos products are distinct under insurance law from injuries sustained by exposure to insulated products.

The 1994 settlement, however, treated both injuries the same and provided for an “aggregated” payout of $12.4 million among more than 8,500 claimants and included a provision requiring a further payout if an additional coverage obligation was discovered, the complaint stated.

The Court of Special Appeals’ 1997 decision in Commercial Union Insurance Co. v. Porter Hayden Co. held that injuries sustained during installation are not part of an aggregated claim but are to be resolved separately.

But Angelos did not sue to recover additional funds for those injured during installation until 2002, which by then was too late. Similarly, Angelos did not bring until 2005, a claim that MCIC and its insurers knew as early as 1994 — but fraudulently did not disclose to his firm — that workers exposed to asbestos during installation were not covered under the aggregated coverage limits, the ex-clients’ lawsuit stated.

“It is beyond any reasonable dispute that Angelos knew as early as 1997 and no later than 1998 that additional coverage had been available back in 1994 to pay out the claims against MCIC,” Caiola wrote in the complaint.

“It likewise is beyond any reasonable dispute that Angelos knew as early as 1997 and no later than 1998 that the representations by MCIC and its insurers that the MCIC settlement agreement was based on the full amount of available insurance coverage had been false,” Caiola added. “In fact, the participants in the MCIC settlement likely were entitled to tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of additional insurance proceeds.”

The case is docketed in Baltimore City Circuit Court as Cynthia M. Clark et al. v. Peter G. Angelos et al., No. 24C21000847.

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