Attorney fight continues over firm's legal fees in Western Psych shooting

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Attorneys fighting over legal fees stemming from the shooting last year at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic are at it again.

The lawyer representing Downtown law firm Farrell & Reisinger, which claims it is owed more than $500,000 in legal fees from Harry and Mary Schaab, filed a motion this week seeking sanctions against the couple's new attorney, claiming he is interfering with his right to depose Mr. and Mrs. Schaab.

The Schaabs, whose son, Michael, was killed in the March 8, 2012, shooting, initially retained Farrell & Reisinger in a civil suit they filed against UPMC. However, the couple later terminated their relationship with the firm before a settlement was finalized.

They then retained their current attorney, Michael O'Day, with whom they finalized a $1.5 million UPMC settlement.

Farrell & Reisinger filed a claim against the couple in orphans' court in October seeking to recover attorney fees that the firm believes are owed in the case. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole issued an order last month holding the fees in escrow and set a 60-day schedule for the parties to do discovery before a final hearing on the matter in February.

But last week, Mr. O'Day filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Farrell & Reisinger in civil court, and he has said that he does not believe the case should be split between two venues.

According to the motion filed Tuesday by William Pietragallo in the orphans' court case, Mr. O'Day ignored his request and subpoena to depose the Schaabs.

"Mr. O'Day's unilateral proclamation that he will not subject himself or his clients to discovery in the orphans' court is a flagrant disregard for this court's order," Mr. Pietragallo wrote. He is seeking a $10,000 sanction.

In response, Mr. O'Day said he has not consented to have the issue of the attorney fees handled exclusively in orphans' court, and that the matter would properly be heard in civil court, along with the contract lawsuit.

"These attorneys, who were fired, went in and buffaloed $500,000 in legal fees they never earned and aren't entitled to, and now they have the audacity to come in and ask for $10,000 more from me?" he said. "We're not doing anything we're not entitled to."

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.


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