Sisters of slain N.Y. firefighter say Motley Rice botched nearly $1 million payout

– Three sisters whose brother was killed Sept. 11, 2001, say they have lost out on nearly $1 million in compensation after plaintiffs’ litigation firm Motley Rice allegedly failed to inform them of a key 2018 deadline connected to a terrorism victim’s fund.

Plaintiffs Donna Maffeo, Linda Manfredi and Susan Drury filed the lawsuit on Monday in New York County Supreme Court, two days after the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center that killed their brother, New York firefighter Joseph Maffeo. They allege that Motley Rice failed to inform them of a September 2018 deadline concerning their deceased parents’ claims with the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

The fund was established by the U.S. government in 2015 to award compensation to individuals who suffered harm as a result of an act of international terrorism by a state sponsor of terrorism. In February, the U.S. announced it had sold more than a million barrels of Iranian fuel seized under its sanctions program last year and distributed the proceeds to the fund.

Motley Rice is the successor firm of the attorneys whom the now-deceased the plaintiffs’ parents, Louis and Jean Maffeo, hired in 2002 to obtain compensation relating to their son’s death, according to the lawsuit.

The law firm is known for the massive settlements it has negotiated. Motley Rice co-founder Ronald Motley, one of the attorneys the Maffeos hired in 2002, was part of the team that battled Big Tobacco in the 1990s and secured a $246 billion settlement. Motley died in 2013.

Joseph Rice, the co-founder of Motley Rice, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, represented by New York-based Capuder Fazio Giacoia, allege that Motley Rice failed to advise them on how to “assert and obtain” the benefits from the fund after their parents died in 2015 and 2017. Had it not been for the law firm’s failure, the sisters said they would not have missed out on more than $952,000 in compensation.

“At no time did defendant explain that defendant was potentially liable to plaintiffs for legal malpractice. Defendant failed to disclose the true meaning and context of their errors, misrepresented the nature of their conduct and misrepresented by silence that there was no fault on the part of defendant,” the lawsuit said.

The terrorism victims’ fund had a Sept. 14, 2018 deadline for altering claims, which the law firm allegedly did not inform the plaintiffs of in a June 2018 letter, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs said Motley Rice’s letter was “ambiguous,” telling them they had to take action in 30 days but not offering specifics. A copy of the letter was not filed with the complaint.

The lawsuit accuses Motley Rice of breaching its duties and ethical and fiduciary responsibilities to the plaintiffs.

Douglas Capuder, who is representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment.

The case is Maffeo v. Motley Rice LLC, New York County Supreme Court, Index No. Unassigned

For the plaintiffs: Douglas Capuder of Capuder Fazio Giacoia