(1942 - 2019)The New York Times
, April 26, 2019
Michael P. Koskoff, a renowned and dogged Connecticut litigator who defended Black Panthers,won record malpractice awards, mounted racial job-discrimination battles and sued gunmakerswhose weapons were used in the Sandy Hook school massacre, died on Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital. He was 77.
The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his son Jacob, a screenwriter, said. He and his father collaborated on the screenplay for Marshall (2017), a feature film about the 1941 trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. The defendant was represented by a future Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall.
Michael Koskoff advised his other son, Joshua, a senior partner in the Connecticut firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, in litigation against companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used by the gunman in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Last month, the Connecticut Supreme Court created a potential opening for victims families to hold the companies including Remington Arms, which made the rifle liable for the attack.
Mr. Koskoff, who lived in Westport, Conn., was the scion of a family of performers who starred on disparate stages. Some were actors, singers and musicians. (A cousin was Alfred Newman, the celebrated Hollywood composer.) Others were litigators who held forth in courtrooms. His father, Theodore, was both his law partner and a cellist.
"Were show people," Michael Koskoff once explained.
Mr. Koskoff won record settlements in Connecticut negligence and malpractice cases by coupling skills he had acquired in training to be a Shakespearean actor with a lifelong antagonism toward corporate greed.
He also pioneered the use of vivid courtroom videos delivered in a documentary format.
In 1979, Mr. Koskoff persuaded a jury in Danbury, Conn., to award his client $1.8 million in a wrongful-death case Connecticuts first verdict of more than $1 million in such a suit.
In 1999, jurors awarded $27 million for what he had demonstrated was a bungled heart operation at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which left a 29-year-old man permanently blind and brain-damaged.
At the time, it was the biggest personal injury verdict in the states history.
That same year, Mr. Koskoff was lead counsel in a class-action case against the state for illegal wiretapping of calls between clients and their lawyers. It ended with a $17 million settlement.
In a medical malpractice case that became the subject of a book, "Damages: One Familys Legal Struggles in the World of Medicine" (1998), by Barry Werth, a couple represented by Mr. Koskoff
settled for $6.25 million in the early 1990s nine years after their baby, who had severe cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities, was born at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. (The childs twin brother had been stillborn there).
Perri Klass, acknowledging that "while it may be difficult for a practicing physician like me to see a malpractice lawyer as a hero," wrote in The New York Times Book Review that "Damages" did "full justice to Michael Koskoffs skills, and to the mix of personal history, political fire and competitive zeal that sends him into court."
In his book, Mr. Werth described Mr. Koskoffs courtroom techniques as "raw theater." "Koskoff liked to depend on his own 'visceral and instinctive reality' of what was happening in a courtroom was a witness nervous? arrogant? appealing? unappealing? to decide how best to keep the drama fresh," Mr. Werth wrote. "He also liked to keep the other sides experts off balance by not letting them know what to expect of him. If he met them, he might like them, and that would dull his attack."...
See entire article at NYT Obituary Michael P. Koskoff