A Long Island man who was awarded a historic multi-million dollar verdict after fracturing his skull years ago is now duking it out with his former lawyer over $5.5 million — because the attorney’s “greed knows no bounds,” new court papers allege.
Mark Perez was sued last month by his ex-attorney Benedict Morelli — who claims he’s entitled to the $5.5 million in legal fees, on top of the more than $18 million Perez has already paid him, according to filings in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“I think that lawyers should be paid well for their work, a person like me needs them to fight for them but for Mr. Morelli to take away so much of the settlement, it just seems wrong,” Perez recently wrote to the judge that oversaw his personal injury trial.
Perez, 38, originally received a $102 million jury verdict in 2019 after suing Live Nation over a fall six years earlier that left him with a broken skull and needing multiple brain surgeries. A forklift had crashed into a 10-foot tall booth Perez was working on, sending him plummeting at the Jones Beach Marine Theatre.
Perez and Morelli originally agreed that the notable personal injury attorney would get one-third of the award as a contingency fee. But when the verdict went to appeal, Morelli repeatedly tried to negotiate an additional 10-percent fee, while Perez sought to pay the lawyer an hourly rate, according to Perez’s counterclaims to the suit Morelli filed against him last month.
Morelli kept working the case – despite Perez allegedly never signing an agreement over the additional fee – and eventually secured his client a $55 million settlement with Live Nation’s insurers outside of the appeal court.
In the end, Perez only received roughly $28 million from the settlement. The $5.5 million is being held in an escrow account while Perez fights for its return, in addition to all of the fees he paid Morelli.
“[Morelli] continues to insist that he should be paid $5.5 million for the post-trial and appellate work (on top of the $18,333,333.30 that Mr. Perez has already paid in legal fees), demonstrating that Morelli’s greed knows no bounds,” Perez’s countersuit alleges.
In the letter to the judge, dated Dec. 9, Perez added, “I am the one that lives with seizures, surgeries and the constant fear of more medical problems.
“I hope you are able to help me now by deciding what should be done here. Thank you for hearing my trial. I’m looking forward to moving on and putting this last upsetting situation behind me.”
Perez also claims Morelli put him in the middle of a fee dispute with his first lawyer – a distant relative – causing a rift in his family. And Perez alleges that Morelli didn’t inform him about several prior settlement offers post trial.
On Thursday, Morelli asked a judge to toss Perez’ counterclaims against him, arguing that he never agreed to Perez’s proposed hourly pay rate for the appeal work.
Morelli claimed that Perez “chose to remain silent,” about the extra 10-percent fee until the case had wrapped and the settlement was secured.
“Mr. Perez accepted the benefits of the firm’s work with respect to the appeal, did not terminate the firm, and did not ask the firm to stop working on the matter,” Morelli’s lawyers wrote in the Thursday filing. “He chose to remain silent while the firm completed the appeal and thereby ratified the 10% fee agreement.”
The aftermath of Perez’s fall on June 26, 2013 left him needing full-time care and caused him to lose his long-term relationship, Morelli told The Post soon after the verdict.
Lawyers on both sides declined to comment.