Jon Campisi Jan. 13, 2012, 9:41am

A Philadelphia man is suing an attorney he had hired to represent him in a previous drug liability case, alleging the lawyer failed to bring a timely claim on the plaintiff’s behalf.

Attorney Eric H. Weitz, of the Philadelphia firm Messa & Associates, P.C., filed the legal malpractice complaint Jan. 10 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Ramiz Monteiro.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are attorney Kenneth Scott Saffren and his law firm, Saffren & Weinberg, LLP, which is based in Jenkintown, Pa.

According to the civil action, Monteiro hired Saffren to represent him in a workers’ compensation claim stemming from a knee injury Monteiro had suffered at work during a 1999 incident.

As part of the treatment for his injury, Monteiro had been prescribed the drug Vioxx, the suit states. Prior to taking the medication, Monteiro had high blood pressure, but had no history of heart attacks or heart disease.

After taking Vioxx, Monteiro suffered at least one heart attack, which caused substantial damage to his heart and health, according to the complaint.

After learning from a physician that the Vioxx may have caused his heart attack, Monteiro consulted with Saffren about bringing a potential claim against the drug’s manufacturers.

On Nov. 24, 2004, Saffren told Monteiro that his law firm would represent the plaintiff in his claim for Social Security disability benefits, the suit states. Five days later, Monteiro executed a contingent fee agreement hiring Saffren & Weinberg to represent him in the Vioxx claim.

During the ensuing few years, however, Monteiro and his family repeatedly contacted Saffren about the Vioxx claim, inquiries that went unanswered, the suit claims.

Finally, in mid July 2006, Saffren called Monteiro’s family physician seeking a letter confirming that Monteiro is disabled due to his medical conditions, which were the consequence of his taking Vioxx.

“After calling Saffren & Weinberg repeatedly and threatening to bring disciplinary action against Mr. Saffren, Mr. Saffren finally returned the Monteiro’s calls,” the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 4, 2010, the suit states, the Monteiros called an assistant at Saffren’s law firm and were informed that Saffren had no information about the Vioxx claim.

Ten days later, Monteiro met with Saffren face-to-face, during which Saffren admitted that he had no information or materials related to the Vioxx claim, that his firm did, in fact, have the contingent fee agreement relating to the Vioxx claim, but possessed no other documents pertinent to the claim, that Saffren’s firm had obtained materials from Monteiro’s doctors, but had lost those materials, and that he would call Monteiro within one week to update him on the status of the case, according to the complaint.

“On January 14, 2010, Mr. Monteiro first became aware that Mr. Saffren and Saffren & Weinberg most likely failed to file a claim on Mr. Monteiro’s behalf, failed to refer Mr. Monteiro to a firm handling Vioxx claims and/or failed to take any action to pursue Mr. Monteiro’s Vioxx claims,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence in failing to bring a timely claim on behalf of Monteiro, failing to properly investigate Monteiro’s Vioxx assertions, failing to take the necessary steps to ensure that Monteiro’s claims would be protected, and failing to refer the Vioxx claims to counsel familiar with pursuing those claims.

As a result of the alleged inaction, Monteiro suffered permanent heart damage, past and future pain and suffering, lost earnings, past and future humiliation and emotional and psychological trauma.

Monteiro seeks damages in excess of $50,000, as well as interest and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The case ID number is 120101100.

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