The class-action law firm Napoli Bern Ripka & Associates LLP, which is suing the city over the cleanup of ground zero, is now trying to silence a former client who has emerged as a critic of the Manhattan firm.
Napoli Bern recently filed a defamation suit against the former client, Scott Spielberg, in state court in Suffolk County. The firm is seeking a gag order to prohibit Mr. Spielberg, who lives in Nevada, from speaking ill of the firm.
What is perhaps most unusual about the defamation suit is that Napoli Bern is taking issue with statements that Mr. Spielberg made in relatively private or confidential settings.
The firm claims that Mr. Spielberg defamed the firm when he wrote to the office of the Manhattan district attorney asking prosecutors to open an investigation into what Mr. Spielberg alleges is the firm's mishandling of earlier litigation involving the diet drug fen-phen.
The lawsuit also claims that Mr. Spielberg slandered the firm in conversations he had with a New York Times reporter, Anthony DePalma, who wrote a lengthy article about the involvement of a name partner at the firm, Paul Napoli, in the fen-phen litigation.
Yet, Mr. DePalma's article doesn't quote Mr. Spielberg or mention him at all. Napoli Bern is representing the vast majority of thousands of ground zero workers in their suits alleging that the city failed to protect them from toxins at the site that have caused respiratory and other illnesses.
Mr. Spielberg, a former cab driver, has no direct connection to the ground zero litigation. His connection with Napoli Bern stems back to the fen-phen litigation. Mr. Spielberg, who claims the diet drug damaged his heart, believes that the firm failed to adequately compensate his claim against the drug's maker.
In an interview, Mr. Spielberg said the firm was trying to silence him.
"They don't want me to be able to talk to the press or law enforcement," Mr. Spielberg said of the suit against him.
Mr. Napoli, who is individually, along with his firm, a plaintiff, did not return a call for comment.