A federal jury awarded crime writer Patricia Cornwell nearly US$51 million on Tuesday in her lawsuit against her former financial management company and a former principal in the firm.
The author, best known for her series of novels featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, claimed that Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP was negligent in handling her finances and cost her millions in losses or unaccounted-for revenue.
Lawyers for the New York firm and former principal Evan Snapper said there was no money missing from Cornwell’s accounts. They blamed losses on the economic downturn and what they called Cornwell’s extravagant lifestyle, which included Ferraris, helicopters and a temporary apartment in New York City she rented for US$40,000 per month.
Cornwell, 56, testified that Anchin moved her from a conservative management strategy to an aggressive one without her permission. She said she fired the firm in 2009 after discovering that her net worth was a little under US$13 million, despite having eight-figure earnings in each of the previous four years.
Cornwell said the firm caused her to miss a book deadline for the first time in her career when it failed to find her a suitable place to write after renovation work on her house in Concord went on much longer than expected.
“This was very destabilizing. I really lost my ability to focus and concentrate. I did not know what the book was about anymore,” Cornwell said.
The lawsuit said the missed deadline caused Cornwell to lose one year’s income: about US$15 million in advances and commission.
Cornwell said she was thrilled with the verdict.
“God bless justice,” she said.
Lawyers for the firm and Snapper portrayed Cornwell as a demanding client who relied on them for everything, from bringing her clothes to the tailor to arranging care for her mother.
“I’m very disappointed,” Snapper said after the verdict.
On the stand, he strongly denied Cornwell’s allegations.
“I did not steal any money from anyone,” he said. “The money was there.”
Frank Schettino, a managing partner at Anchin, Block & Anchin, said the firm plans to explore its legal options, including appealing the verdict.