Joan S. ‘s Story

The loss of my husband Albert in 2009 was magnitudes of grief and tragedy. Gone was the love of my life. But also gone was the adored grandfather of a mentally and physically disabled child who had lost her own father – Albert’s and my son – just two years before.

If not for Weitz & Luxenberg, what’s left of my family would never have had the opportunity to see justice done. I really believe that.

However, my lawsuit was not just about resolution and restitution. It was also about retribution. I wanted the people who were responsible for Albert’s death to be punished. The way that would happen is if they had to pay a steep price for what they did.

Albert died of colon cancer. He absolutely did not need to. And he wouldn’t have, if his doctors had just bothered to tell him that they had found the cancer. They found it 18 months before he died, but never told him. At the time of finding, the cancer was treatable. Since they never mentioned the cancer to him, Albert went on about his business, thinking he was fine.

So the cancer grew and spread untreated. Albert’s first real indication that something wasn’t right came while we were in Puerto Rico in early 2009. Albert had rented us a place there for the winter. We weren’t there very long before he lost his appetite and could not swallow. There was only so much the doctors in Puerto Rico could do, so we came home two months later to seek more advanced care.

By then, Albert’s condition had gotten worse. He went into the hospital near where we live. The physicians who treated him quickly saw that cancer was all through his body. They told us to prepare for the worst. Within six days, Albert was gone.

These physicians had no connection to the doctors who originally found Albert’s colon cancer. These physicians were shocked that Albert was kept in the dark about the cancer for almost a year and a half. What these physicians didn’t know, and what I didn’t find out until later, was that the finding of cancer was in Albert’s chart the whole time – and even though the doctors who were at fault saw Albert several times after they put the finding of cancer in his chart, they still never once told him, never ordered any treatment, never lifted a finger to help him.

The hospital physicians who tried to save Albert said they believed I had grounds for a lawsuit. I decided within a week after Albert’s funeral that I was going to look into the negligence aspects of what had happened and pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

My starting point was Weitz & Luxenberg. Albert had used Weitz & Luxenberg in the mid-1990s and was very satisfied with the work they did for him. He needed Weitz & Luxenberg’s help because he was exposed to asbestos during his career working for the New York City school system in old, neglected buildings. As a member of Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Albert was entitled to a medical evaluation at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York for signs of asbestosis. When he tested positive, Albert was referred to Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm got him money from several different defendants.

So while I knew Weitz & Luxenberg had expertise in asbestos cases, I didn’t know if that expertise extended to medical malpractice. When I called to find out, I learned that it certainly does – Weitz & Luxenberg is very strong in that area of the law.

Mr. Allan Zelikovic was assigned to my case. He was later joined by Mr. Nick Wise. I’m a retired CPA and auditor, so I’m someone who insists on precision and accuracy in dealings I have with anyone who performs a service on my behalf. I very much liked that everyone on my Weitz & Luxenberg team was on top of things at all times.

I also appreciated that they treated me with great respect. They understood how painful it was for me to have to go back over the events that led to Albert’s death, and I’m very grateful for the sensitivity they showed toward me in the course of it all.

Mr. Zelikovic was an absolute point of strength for me. He certainly knew every inch of what was ahead. He had been doing this type of law for a very long time and he knew the players on the opposing side.

Mr. Zelikovic was very good about telling me up front what was going to be involved, what I could and should expect along the way in terms of obstacles the defendants would put up, and also that I should be prepared for a long haul, that this would not be concluded quickly, even though I was able to produce very complete and detailed documentation showing the doctors’ fault. 

He was right. My first meeting with Weitz & Luxenberg was in March, 2009, and a settlement was reached four years later, which is exactly how long Mr. Zelikovic predicted the process would take.

While I very much wanted to have my day in court and have a jury find that the medical negligence of the defendants caused my husband’s death, I realized that going into court would be rolling the dice. As Mr. Zelikovic explained, very strong cases don’t always prevail. There are no guarantees. Juries sometimes do the opposite of what you think they should. So, it made sense to take the sure path of settlement, especially in light of my goals to build security for my girls and, in particular, establish a special-needs trust for our disabled granddaughter.

I should point out that, during the four years Weitz & Luxenberg worked on my case, the firm did not once send me a bill. In fact, had they failed to win money for me, they would never have charged so much as a penny for their services. The way they work it at Weitz & Luxenberg, clients pay nothing unless and until there is a settlement or a court award. This approach makes it possible for ordinary people who don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay lawyers’ fees to nonetheless gain full and fair access to our system of justice.

Without a doubt, if it ever happened that I again need a personal-injury lawyer, I would come back to Weitz & Luxenberg. They could not have been more accommodating, more sympathetic, more patient, more caring. Weitz & Luxenberg treated us like family.

The loss of my husband Albert in 2009 was magnitudes of grief and tragedy. Gone was the love of my life. But also gone was the adored grandfather of a mentally and physically disabled child who had lost her own father – Albert’s and my son – just two years before. If not for Weitz & Luxenberg, what’s left of my family would never have had the opportunity to see justice done. I really believe that.

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