WASHINGTON (CN) – A former DC United defenseman claims two attorneys from prominent personal injury law firms mishandled the discovery process in his suit seeking damages for the team’s poor treatment of a career-ending concussion he suffered during a game.
In 2012, two years after a concussion forced him to step away from soccer, Bryan Namoff filed three lawsuits against DC United, its head coach and trainer, and an outside doctor’s practice who served as the team’s physician.
Namoff hired Steven Shapiro of the Colorado firm Fleishman Shapiro, and Joseph Cammarata, of the Washington, DC firm, Chaikin Sherman, to represent him in the suits, which were eventually consolidated, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Namoff says he had a strong case against the outside doctor, but his attorneys botched it during the discovery process by not turning over emails, business proposals and a medical report that detailed his involvement with Soccer Pros, a company he owned that fostered youth soccer camps, the complaint says.
“Defendants’ failure to produce Namoff’s documents was due to their own negligence or intentional actions in derogation of their duty to zealously represent Namoff,” the complaint reads.
Namoff suffered the concussion in a 2009 match against Sporting Kansas City, which at the time was known as the Kansas City Wizards. He claims he felt “lost and out of it” but the team doctor never examined him during the game.
The team also never gave him the usual follow-up test and rushed him back for a game against the Seattle Sounders just days after his concussion, the complaint says.
Calling it “one of the worst games of his career,” Namoff says his concussion symptoms returned and eventually forced him to retire from soccer early.
The doctors asked Namoff to answer questions about his involvement with the Soccer Pros and Namoff’s lawyers helped him craft his responses. But Cammarata and Shapiro didn’t walk him step-by-step through the discovery process, something that was vitally important in Namoff’s case because of his concussion symptoms, according to the complaint.
“Namoff trusted that his attorneys would competently investigate the facts of his case and disclose information in an honest and credible manner,” the complaint reads. “Instead, defendants failed to make reasonable investigations, failed to ensure that all important information was disclosed and then exposed Namoff to sanctions and cause his medical malpractice actions to be dismissed when they elected not to produce documents that would have exposed their errors to the court.”
They also didn’t tell him not to delete emails about his business, which Namoff says he routinely did because a complex forwarding system his company used cluttered his inbox. Namoff gave his lawyers access to his accounts, but they either didn’t conduct enough research or ignored some documents he turned over, Namoff claims.
This led to the doctors to file a sanctions motion that claimed Namoff had hidden his involvement in Soccer Pros on purpose to help strengthen his case that his concussion had left him unable to work. They asked that the case be dismissed in addition to monetary damages, according to the complaint filed Tuesday.
Namoff’s lawyers did nothing to defend the claims, allegedly because they had withheld the documents intentionally to cover for overstating the impact of Namoff’s injuries in the lawsuit, according to the complaint.
“Defendants knew if Mr. Namoff defended the sanctions motion, the attorneys’ own mistakes, which were likely indefensible, would be brought to light,” the complaint reads. “Defendants sought to avoid the potentially substantial financial sanctions and damage to their professional reputations that would almost certainly ensue if their incompetence in handing Namoff’s case was revealed.”
Instead, Namoff claims, Cammarata and Shapiro did not tell him they were also facing the $700,000 fees in the sanctions motion, instead telling him and that dismissing the case was the only way for him to avoid paying and facing criminal charges.
They convinced him to sign an agreement doing just that and placing the blame for the discovery issue squarely on him, according to the complaint.
In addition to missing out on the damages he would have won against DC United and the doctors, Namoff says he is still trying to redo his worker’s compensation agreement.
Namoff’s lawyer, Steve Berman of the Seattle firm Hagens Berman, says his client is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms, often requiring multiple explanations to navigate his legal proceedings.
“He’s clearly an injured person,” Berman said in an interview.
Namoff seeks to recover the $126,000 in costs he paid to his lawyers as well as additional punitive damages. In addition to the attorneys themselves, the complaint also names their firms as defendants.
Neither Cammarata nor Shapiro responded to a request for comment on the suit.