A war of words has erupted on the front page of the New York Law Journal over the two million dollar legal fee which Thomas Troiano Esq., a Florida attorney is seeking from the estate of Edward J. Mardovich who died at the World Trade Center on September 11,2001. As I reported here last Tuesday, Mr. Troiano is coming under very heavy criticism for his fee application in Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court on Long Island.

Last week, we explored the conflict of law which has arisen between the Federal statute which established the September 11th Victims’ Compensation Fund and the process to access benefits from the fund on one hand and New York law on the other. Now,a controversy has arisen over the propriety of such a large legal fee from a recovery from the fund.

Mr. Troiano has pointed to the fact that he provided substantial legal services to the decedent’s widow without charge but that she had duly executed a  retainer agreement providing for him to receive one third of any recovery and he, for his part, had appealed an original recovery of a 1.1 million dollar presumptive award to ultimately recover 6.7 million dollars; one of the largest recoveries against the fund.

In contrast, Kenneth R. Feinberg who was the fund’s special master has called the fees "shocking and unconscionable" in light of the fund’s purpose. The degree of difficulty in this case was not exceptional when one considers that no family of a 9-11 victim came away empty handed inasmuch as the fund was established to insure relief to all. In fact, many trial lawyers (including your faithful blogger) enrolled in a training program to access the fund for victims’ families and endeavored to be of service here on a purely pro bono basis. Even so, experienced trial lawyers who have made recoveries against the fund without charging any legal fees are slow to criticize those who have done so.

I am sure that this story will have many more chapters. I’ll report as they develop.