Hartford Attorney Faces Multiple Allegations of Sexual Harassment
More women have come forward accusing the managing partner of a Hartford personal injury law firm of sexual harassment.
Last month a former intern sued Timothy Brignole and his firm, Brignole, Bush & Lewis, for pervasive sexual harassment and bolstered the complaint by including allegations made by other alleged victims, which included legal assistants, a paralegal and an associate.
In the latest lawsuit obtained by the Law Tribune with which Brignole will soon be served, a former client claims Brignole tried to arrange to provide legal representation in exchange for sex. The lawsuit claims Brignole coerced other female clients into similar arrangements.
The latest allegations include some that date as far back as 2005, thus barring some of the women from bringing lawsuits due to the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs lawyers declined to comment on whether more lawsuits were forthcoming or how many were time-barred, citing attorney-client privilege.
"This is a very serious matter of widespread sexual harassment by the managing partner of a law firm, who abused his position of authority and trust as an employer to exploit vulnerable employees," said one of the plaintiffs lawyers, Betsy Ingraham of Casper & de Toledo in Stamford. Victoria de Toledo, of the same firm, is also representing the plaintiffs.
"The law firm clients who have now come forward describe similar exploitation by Attorney Brignole," continued Ingraham, "conduct that implicates professional and ethical responsibilities, and betrays the vulnerable people who put their trust in someone that was supposed to be helping them."
Two separate defense lawyers each claim to represent Brignole, Eliot Gersten, of Pullman & Comley in Hartford, and Norman Pattis, of Bethany. Gersten declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, as he noted his client had not yet been served with the second suit.
However, Pattis, in response to the additional allegations, said: "It sounds like the gravy train has left Stamford, let's see who else jumps on." Pattis previously used such terms as "false," "sanctionable" and "irresponsible lawyering" to describe the initial lawsuit.
The latest lawsuit is brought by Jennifer Meyer, who claims that in 2013 she was in a physically abusive relationship, wanted a divorce and approached her uncle about helping her find legal representation. He recommended Brignole, whom he considered a friend. Meyer was Brignole's wife Kim's cousin, according to the complaint.
The uncle later informed Meyer that Brignole was willing to form a sex-for-legal representation relationship, said the lawsuit. The uncle also allegedly said if she "was good to Tim," he'd let her stay in one of his rental properties after leaving her husband.
Meyer agreed to meet Brignole at his East Granby office. She thought there would be other people at the office but he was alone, said the complaint. It soon became clear to her he was expecting sex there when he brought up the arrangement. "But to avoid having to have sex with Brignole, she said she had to pick up her children and immediately left the office," said the complaint.
The uncle later texted Meyer asking why she did not have sex with him and informing her it was Brignole's birthday and he was expecting it. Meyer did not have any further contact with Brignole.
Meyer's lawsuit alleges assault, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy.
Meyer's lawsuit further alleges that "Brignole coerced disadvantaged female clients into sexual relationships. He gained information about their financial circumstances in his role as an attorney, and then offered them legal representation in exchange for sexual favors."
The lawsuit claims another woman in 2010 was going through a divorce and lived in one of Brignole's rental properties. He offered to provide legal representation in exchange for sex. She reluctantly agreed but then later refused further advances. Brignole then stopped representing her.
The lawsuit also alleges that in 2005, Brignole began making sexual advances to an employee identified as "Ms. Sm." The lawsuit claims he coerced her into an ongoing sexual relationship, including making her have sex with him on the floor outside of the office of another law firm partner. He later represented her in a civil proceeding for unpaid credit card debt and expected sex for his representation, said the lawsuit.
The original lawsuit was brought by Johanna Carlucci, a 23-year-old intern hired in 2005. She claims he pressured her into an ongoing sexual relationship. Counts in the lawsuit included sexual harassment, negligent supervision and retention, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She also claimed Brignole's wife sent Carlucci harassing messages on Facebook after finding out about her relationship with Brignole.
Ingraham said there will be extensive discovery efforts during the pretrial phase of the litigation.
"There will be a significant amount of discovery as to the pervasiveness of these practices within the law firm, both as to its employees and its clients, and into what firm employees knew about these reports of sexually predatory practices."
According to Brignole's profile on his firm's website, his practice focuses solely on personal injury litigation. He has been managing partner at the firm since 1989 and has practiced law in Connecticut since 1982.
If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.
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