Counselor, heal thyself for goodness' sake

MICHAEL OLESKER

May 25, 1993|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Somewhere out there in a neck brace and a state of anger is Debra Jane Lowenstein, with whom I wish to compare a few notes.

She was sitting in a Timonium restaurant several nights back when Abraham Paul Korotki -- an attorney previously famous for gouging money from injured firefighters -- reportedly approached her and began hitting her.

As it happens, I was sitting in a Canton restaurant some months back when this same Korotki approached me and began threatening to hit me.

Is anyone from the Maryland Bar Association paying attention to this guy?

Debra Jane Lowenstein and two friends were sitting in the smoking section of a York Road restaurant. According to the criminal complaint they filed with police, Korotki asked Lowenstein to put out her cigarette.

Having waited 45 minutes for a seat in the restaurant's smoking section, and seeing where her smoking habit was none of Korotki's business, she declined. Korotki then hit her on the head three times, shouting "Heal" -- apparently a mocking reference to an evangelical preacher -- while a friend of Korotki's tied Lowenstein's legs to her chair.

Lowenstein, recovering from recent neck surgery, quickly did two things: She filed criminal assault charges against Korotki, and she went to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where she spent 5 1/2 hours and got a neck brace and physical therapy.

About this Korotki person, Lowenstein and I might have a few things to discuss.

Having dinner with a woman friend at an outdoor restaurant in Canton about a year ago, I suddenly found Korotki standing over me and threatening violence.

I thought he was mistaking me for someone else. He said we'd met at a party and said I'd chatted with a woman friend of his while he was standing there. Apparently, he took offense at this.

He talked as though I knew who he and the woman were. I thought he was on the brink of embarrassing everyone. I'd never seen him before and had no idea what woman he was talking about. But Korotki -- who hadn't even identified himself yet -- stood over me, voice growing louder, language more threatening, while people at nearby tables gazed at this bizarre scene.

Then he identified himself, turned and left -- and it dawned on me what this was all about.

He wasn't angry about any woman at some party; he was upset about his name in the newspaper.

It was Korotki, some time earlier, who'd represented five city firefighters badly injured fighting a chemical fire. He approached them while they were still in the hospital, recuperating from their burns, saying he would sue the negligent chemical company in return for a 40 percent cut of whatever the firemen might win in court.

The firefighters agreed. But, after the case was won and the chemical company appealed the ruling, Korotki said he was raising his cut to 60 percent. When the firemen balked, he told them they could take their case to another attorney -- but they'd still have to pay him the original 40 percent, plus pay another 40 percent to the new attorney.

With their backs to the wall, the firemen stuck with Korotki. Then things got worse. After they won the appeal but faced another decision from the state's highest court, Korotki raised his cut to 75 percent. If the firemen didn't like it, they could find another attorney. But, since he still claimed his 60 percent, they stayed where they were.

When the firemen were awarded $628,000, they divided $140,000 five separate ways.

And Korotki claimed the other $488,000 for himself.

Attorneys familiar with such cases called it an outrage. The firemen said they'd been "taken to the cleaners on this one."

Korotki said, "A sense of greed has overcome these people."

He meant the firemen.

It was a characterization which came back to haunt him when the firemen then sued him and Korotki settled out of court.

It haunted him again when the state's highest court suspended his license for 18 months, calling his treatment of the firemen "a particularly aggravated case of greed overriding professionalism."

I wonder what they'd call Korotki's behavior now.

Maybe they should talk to Debra Jane Lowenstein.

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