The law firm of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley and attorney Navarro Gray have agreed to pay $60,000 to the city for failing to file court documents on time that led to a $165,000 judgment against the municipality.
Gray and the Newark-based Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley are each paying $30,000 to the city, said the city’s chief attorney Domenick Stampone on Tuesday night. The city would have likely settled the Ana Velarde case, which Stampone valued at $75,000 to $90,000 based on medical expenses and legal costs incurred by the woman.
Velarde suffered injuries when a municipal street sweeper struck her vehicle.
The lawyers handling the case were allowed multiple opportunities to file what’s called trial de nova or new trial notice with the court. However, on each occasion, they bungled the filing.
Velarde’s arbitration award of $165,000 was confirmed by a judge in Nov. 2014. The judges, who denied the city’s appeal for a new trial in 2016, noted the city was granted “every indulgence” but failed to take advantage of them.
Municipal officials discussed the reimbursement in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night. The city accepted the funds from the attorneys.
Prominent attorney Kenyatta Stewart is a partner at the Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley law firm which has offices in Paterson and Newark.
“All parties recognized it was an honest mistake,” said Stewart on Wednesday afternoon. He said he has good relationships with council members and the city’s legal department. “We’ll never turn our backs to the city.”
Stewart said his firm looks forward to working with the city if given an opportunity. He is on mayor-elect Andre Sayegh’s transition team.
Navarro, who runs The Gray Firm out of Hackensack, represents rapper Fetty Wap. He was working for Stewart’s firm when the situation arose. He later left to open his own law practice.