The lawyers at the Ziff Law Firm live for our motto – “Local Lawyers, Big City Results!” – and recently delivered life-changing results for two Twin Tiers families.
In May, Jim Reed and Christina Sonsire earned settlements topping a total of $9 million in one week. We celebrate those awards at the Ziff Law Firm because justice was served for two families who have waited for justice for years.
“I think there is a perception that in cases where there are substantial damages, either serious injuries or wrongful death, people have to hire lawyers in bigger cities to get the best legal representation,” said Christina, a partner in Ziff Law and a medical malpractice attorney for eight years. “These cases show that we can bring about the best results possible here in Elmira. It feels good to know that Jim, Adam (Gee), and I can perform at the same level or better than attorneys in the region
or across the state.”
Jim and Christina can’t talk about the details of their settlements because they are bound by confidentiality agreements, but what’s important now is their clients can start to get on with their lives.
“The public needs to understand that these settlements are not just about big payouts – these are payments for something that has been taken away from our clients: a death that takes away a father, an injury that permanently disables someone so they can never work again,” said Jim, the law firm’s managing partner, who has been a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney for almost 30 years.
Christina’s case was settled for $6.9 million during a one-day, nine-hour mediation hearing with a former judge as mediator, following months of pretrial litigation, depositions and discovery.
Christina had hired a team of top medical experts to assist if the case went to trial, something she believes helped her achieve such a good result. “I was able to retain four of the best experts in the United States – perhaps even the world – in their respective fields, and had discussed the case with a fifth, whom I likely would have called if the matter went to trial.”
According to Christina, the quality of the expert witnesses can make a big difference in getting cases resolved. “When the other side knows you are prepared and ready to present a strong case, the likelihood of settling a case for good value goes way, way up.”
At the mediation, Christina and the defense attorney set up in separate rooms and the mediator guided them to the settlement. “The mediator’s job is to go from room to room with information and try to resolve our differences,” she said. “We were successful in our negotiations.”
Sometimes, such as in this case, defendants require confidentiality as terms of the settlement, she said. “The nature of the damages necessitated that we settle the case for the most money we could achieve because of the seriousness of the damages. We did not want confidentiality to become a sticking point that prevented a successful negotiation. Therefore, agreeing to it was the right decision.”
Jim’s $2.25 million settlement in a fatal car accident case was reached after protracted settlement negotiations, he said. The settlements are a reminder of what is lost on a personal level in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.
“This is not about ‘winning the lottery’ because nobody wins when people have been killed or disabled,” he said. “Every one of my clients would gladly trade their settlement money for the ability to go back to a time before they were injured or a loved one was hurt or killed. Our clients have suffered profound losses and these settlements are an imperfect way to try to make the best of very bad situations.”
Jim takes pride in learning while preparing every case because it makes him a better lawyer. “I worked with a nationally recognized trauma surgeon in this case, and under New York state’s archaic wrongful death law, the information I learned assisted in greatly enhancing the value of my client’s case.”
The hard work by the Ziff Law team resulted in settlements that will help people in great need, Christina said.
“We were able to bring the cases to successful outcomes and that’s what this is really all about,” she said. “We did everything we could to right some really bad wrongs.”
Jim said the settlements show that Ziff Law lawyers are among the best in the state. “Two settlements totaling over $9 million in one week is something I thought I would never see from a small Elmira firm,” he said. “Frankly, that would be a phenomenal result for a huge firm in a big city, so it confirms for me that we have achieved my goal of becoming David and Goliath – a small firm capable of big results! Insurance carriers know the lawyers who are capable of the biggest results, so this achievement will be a powerful benefit to our current and future clients.”
Thank you for reading,