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Aug 24, 2010 6:18 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

After bullets hit house, legal bills start war

Aug 24, 2010 6:18 PM

Sometime in early 2004, Kevin and Tracy Coyle’s house in Wainscott was hit by bullets that strayed from a rifle range at the nearby Maidstone Gun Club. Five bullets from a rifle lodged in the wall of their bedroom.

Six years later, the Coyles say they are still plagued by the incident. The rifle range and the stray bullets, however, are the least of their worries now.

“The gun club and the police handled the whole thing wonderfully,” Tracy Coyle said this week. “Little did we know that was just the start of this ... this nightmare.”

Earlier this month, after a week-long trial in a Nassau County Court, a jury ruled that the Coyles must pay a Garden City law firm more than $12,000 for legal bills and interest billed for work the firm says it did on their behalf in the wake of the gun club incident. But the couple says they had never hired the firm.

The saga began in April 2004, when the Coyles arrived at the house they had purchased as a vacation home the previous fall to find several small holes in the wall of the master bedroom. They asked a neighbor, a builder, to take a look at the holes. The neighbor, Ted Foscolo, took one look and informed the Coyles they were bullet holes and that they must have come from the gun club, which is just a few hundred yards away through woods. The Coyles had been unaware of the club’s proximity when they bought the house.

Police were notified and the gun club closed its rifle range. But Mr. Foscolo told the Coyles that the club should be shut down and, while standing in their yard, used his cell phone to call his attorney, Brian Feinstein of Sunshine and Feinstein. Ms. Coyle said that Mr. Foscolo expressly ordered the attorney to approach the town about the gun club and to demand it be closed for good.

“We were like, ‘Wow, who is this guy? I don’t even know my lawyer’s number, he’s got his in his cell phone,’” Ms. Coyle recalled. “We didn’t care if the club went away, really, we just wanted to know the rifle range was being addressed, but we thought, well, okay, if he wants to go after them, that’s fine.”

Over the ensuing year, Mr. Feinstein met and spoke with Mr. Foscolo often, but the Coyles say they never interacted directly with the attorney. Mr. Foscolo informed them of how the legal work was proceeding, she said.

Ms. Coyle said that from conversations with town lawmakers and police department brass, they knew the gun club had closed the range and was changing its alignment and was constructing a concrete berm to prevent stray bullets from leaving the property. She said the couple had paid the legal work Mr. Foscolo’s lawyers were doing little mind.

Then the bill came.

A little more than a year after the bullets hit their house the Coyles received a bill from Sunshine and Feinstein for $6,800 for its work on the Maidstone Gun Club case. Mr. Foscolo, who had since moved out of the neighboring house, could not pay the bill and since the firm said it was representing the Coyles too, it was their responsibility to pay the bill. The itemized bill included $1,200 for “meeting with Ted.”

“We didn’t hire them, I never spoke to them except for 30 seconds when Ted introduced us at the U.S. Open. We didn’t pay any retainer, not a penny,” Mr. Coyle said. “Because their buddy Ted can’t pay the bill they expect us to? It’s ridiculous.”

When the Coyles refused to pay, Sunshine and Feinstein sued.

Calls to an East Hampton number listed to Mr. Foscolo went unanswered.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the law firm has a different take on the story.

“We always knew that we were retained by the Coyles—it was clear as day to us,” Brian Feinstein said on Tuesday. “They were sent a retainer agreement and we discussed it and they agreed to pay us a retainer.”

Mr. Feinstein acknowledged that the Coyles never actually paid a retainer, but he says he spoke and interacted by fax and e-mail with Ms. Coyle numerous times about the case. The bill presented by the firm at trial had four entries marked “Talked to Tracy.” Ms. Coyle said those conversations never took place.

The Coyles and the attorneys agree, though, that money is not the main issue. Principle is. The Coyles say the law firm was trying to get paid after its client bailed. The law firm argued that the Coyles were trying to shirk their financial responsibility.

“It cost us more than this to fight it, but we thought it was worth it on the principle,” Ms. Coyle said of the judgement, reached after a five-day trial and two days of jury deliberations, which they are appealing. “They have a habit of this and they should be stopped.”

Sunshine and Feinstein has some $400,000 in lawsuits pending against other former clients, including $150,000 against Mr. Foscolo, $80,000 against his wife, Laura Foscolo, and $40,000 against another East Hampton resident.

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I would imagine this is pretty cut and dry, either they signed an agreement to retain these "attorneys" or they didn't. If they are found not to have retained them, then the court should order that the plaintiffs reimburse the Coyles legal fees... now would that be ironic and justice all wrapped up in one!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 25, 10 11:34 PM
Oh, I know a great interior designer who can work wonders with Kevlar wallpaper!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 25, 10 11:36 PM
something smells here I dont think the bullets came from club i think there is more to that story
By john o (34), southampton on Aug 26, 10 9:12 AM
I seem to recall at the time of the incident, Maidstone closed the rifle portion of the range and retained, through the National Rifle Association, a specialist who determined that the rounds which had hit the (then unoccupied) house had originated from the range.

Maidstone, very responsibly, undertook remedial action and it hasn't been an issue since then.

This isn't about Maidstone. It's about who owes a law firm fees.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 26, 10 1:05 PM
Legalized extortion thanks to the system set up by....lawyers! And approved by politicians that predominantly come from the....legal profession!
Same politicians/lawyers just passed a 2,000 page healthcare bill with nary a word about TORT REFORM.
Ask a doctor his biggest expense - malpractice insurance is the immediate answer. And in revamping the ENTIRE healthcare system did these politicians/lawyers see fit to control the main cost in the equation? No.
It is a rigged system and is ...more
By Samzydeco (2), Sag Harbor on Aug 26, 10 1:55 PM
Actually, health insurance is the largest expense for doctors, both the cost of coverage for their own practices and the cost of administrating patient's policies, (estimated at over $30 billion annually). Every insurer has a different set of forms, rules and procedures. Doctors have to set up and staff entire administrative offices - or outsource these tasks to specialized medical billing company - solely to deal with reimbursement for services rendered under insurance coverage (which is often ...more
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Aug 29, 10 10:47 PM
hate to burst your bubble there buddy....but this has nothing to do with tort reform or malpractice insurance.

its a pretty clean cut case of owing money or not owing money.

so your call to "remember november" is pretty out of place, as the result of the midterm elections probably wont have any impact here.
By tm (174), mtk on Sep 1, 10 3:33 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Aug 27, 10 9:54 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Aug 27, 10 10:01 AM
What about all those Judge Judy shows where she says " do you have a signed agreement?" Is there a double standard here?
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Aug 27, 10 11:59 AM
Foscolo went bankrupt and lost everything. His scum-sucking lawyers are trying to cash in on someone else. In a just society they would go to jail. In this society the people trying to defend themselves from gross injustice will have to pay lawyers to protect them.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Aug 27, 10 1:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Noah, that is correct. The Foscolos will hopefully end up in jail !
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 8:57 AM
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselvesin the course of time a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it."

-Frederic Bastiat, 'The Law' (1850)
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 27, 10 9:17 PM
NYSBA has an attorney-client fee dispute program (google it), although based soley on what is reported here a referral to the NYSBA ethics review committee seems like a logical first step.
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Aug 28, 10 7:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
This story makes no logical sense... Obvously one side is lying...
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Aug 28, 10 7:36 AM
That is correct. The 2 lawyers in this matter Sunshine & Feinstein - Brain Feinstein & Joel Sunshine from Garden City.
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Aug 28, 10 9:19 AM
Correction - Joel Sunshine & Brian Feinstein of Sunshine & Feinstein law firm & their biz partners Ted & Laura Foscolo are the liars
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Aug 28, 10 2:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
are Foscolo & Jones in prison yet? Or did they finally pay everyone?
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Aug 29, 10 4:36 PM
Afraid that the Judge Judy fan is mistaking entertainment for law. In real life, the concept of "equity" allows bottom-trolling lawyers to charge you for services that you never requested on the grounds that you received benefit from them for which they must be compensated. The fact that you never asked for their help is irrelevant.

Ironically, "equity" originated in the Chancellor's Court in medieval England wherein what was "fair" was the goal of the trial rather than what was "legal". ...more
By Reggie Washington (3), Quogue on Aug 30, 10 10:56 AM
It is quite obvious that this is a miserable and bitter woman that she lost her Court case. I believe in the justice system and I am sure this was a legitimate trial with a legitimate jury verdict from ordinary, everyday people (not lawyers, politicians etc.), so this seems nothing more than an attempt to smear the name of the law firm that represented her because she didn't want to pay.
By Jennifer73 (4), Centerport on Aug 31, 10 9:41 AM
It is quite obvious you either have poor reading comprehension or didn't read the article.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 4:14 PM
jennifer 73- you must be friends with Ted & Laura Foscolo and can't read. It is common knowledge that they have never paid their bills. "what goes around comes around"
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 8:55 AM
Ice- You are so right !!
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 8:56 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Jennifer73 (4), Centerport on Sep 2, 10 3:24 PM
One of the rare instances where ICE and I are on the same page... people assume that because a Judge makes a decision it's "right". If that were true, there would be no such thing as an Appeals process. Judges have the ability to make a decision based on fact and their belief of the law but that varies from person to person... it's entirely possible the judge has erred.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 10 11:20 PM
Nature- Happen to know the the people in the case & saw some of the evidence. These lawyers are walking a thin line to being disbarred. The judge has erred, no doubt. Foscolo & his wife tried to cheat the wrong people with their garbage can lawyers & biz. partners
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 9:01 AM
A Judge didn't make the decision - a jury did!!! read the facts!!
By Jennifer73 (4), Centerport on Sep 2, 10 3:22 PM
You couldn't be more wrong. You obviously don't know a thing about these attorneys and it was a jury trial not a Judge making the decisions. Why don't you people do some research and learn ALL the facts before tossing your ignorant opinions around.
By Jennifer73 (4), Centerport on Sep 2, 10 3:35 PM
lawyers are scum sucking vermin. you will never win when fighting with lawyers. The judge is a former lawyer and you will never get a fair trial. I went to arbitration against a lawyer who was disbared and facing criminal charges for stealing clients money and the lawyers decided in HIs favor, even though he was absolutely wrong. What do you call 5000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.
By jim (48), hampton bays on Sep 1, 10 12:10 AM
Could not be more true !!!
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 9:02 AM
LOL.... I thought it was 20,000 for a good start!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 2, 10 2:41 AM
wow that's original!
By Jennifer73 (4), Centerport on Sep 2, 10 3:46 PM
Play nice Jennifer73 or you will get kicked out of the sandbox, see above comment. Oh, wait you can't it's gone! lol
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 2, 10 5:04 PM
ICE - Right on ! Jennifer73 must be Laura Foscolo or her friend !
By vox scams (15), East Hampton on Sep 4, 10 9:08 AM