Largest Civil Jury Verdict in Centre County
Lawyer Ordered to Pay Ex-Client $1.75 million.
Friday, December 5, 2003
Centre Daily Times
BELLEFONTE, PA — A jury awarded a Centre County woman $1.75 million in a suit against a local lawyer Tuesday, an award that may be the largest award in the county’s history.
Diane M. Saleh sued attorney Harvey Pasternack, claiming he defrauded her in several matters while he was her lawyer. The suit, filed in Centre County Court, claimed he overbilled her for services he provided and that he violated the Canons of Ethics by representing her and a company in which they both were involved.
After a two-day trial, the jury awarded Saleh $1.75 million in punitive damages. Saleh’s attorney, Bernard Cantorna, said it’s the largest award he’s ever heard of in Centre County and possibly in the region. Court officials also said it is the largest award they remember.
“We were both humbled and grateful,” Cantorna said. “She feels as if a large weight has been lifted off her shoulders.”
Pasternack plans to appeal the jury’s decision, saying he didn’t think the jurors really understood the issues presented.
“What they understood was the emotions of the plaintiff,” he said. “There was no real legal basis for these claims.”
Thanks to lawyer, friends
This is a “thank you” letter to people who have touched my life in ways they can never fully understand.
My name is Diane M. Saleh–the “Centre County Woman” who was awarded $1.75 million in a suit against a local lawyer (CDT, Dec. 5).
I am so much more than that description. I am someone’s daughter, someone’s wife…someone’s mother, someone’s friend. I am a human being–one who lost faith in people and certainly in lawyers. I won a fight for my life–I led the fight by speaking up for myself, but I never knew someone would take the time to listen or care.
In retrospect, I can now see that God walked with me this entire time and guided me to my “good” lawyer, Bernard Cantorna–and eventually to a jury of 12 people I have never met–but people I will keep in my prayers for the rest of my life. These people took the time to listen and understand. They saw and clearly understood the “horribleness” of the offenses committed against me, the “horribleness” of stripping me of my right to live, to make choices and to think for myself.
To take advantage of a human being is dreadful enough, but to take advantage of a human being in the depths of grief and loss is deplorable.
Because these people listened, understood and cared–they have not only been witness to my rebirth to life, they are also responsible in preventing the committing of dastardly offenses against another human being.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank this jury, this “good” lawyer Bernard Cantorna, for caring enough to listen to my desperate cries for help, for helping me regain my rights as a human being. Because of you, I have renewed faith in people, our justice system and those who participate it with honor in their hearts. Because of you, I can hold my head up as I discover the power of good and the right to make choices and decisions for myself.
From the bottom of my heart, I humbly thank you. Angels protect each of you and yours.
Diane M. Saleh