About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, February 12, 2016

Leeson Lawfirm Arson Sparks Lawsuit Against City Worker

On February 9, 2014, in the early morning hours, a fire erupted at the Leeson Law offices at 68-70 E. Broad Street in Bethlehem, just beyond the City's National Historic District. Leeson brothers Bill and Jay watched as firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze at a firm founded by their father, the late Joseph Leeson. Parts of the building, along with many memories, literally went up in smoke. Fire Marshal Craig Baer ruled that this was no accident, but an arson. Two years later, no charges have been filed. But earlier this month, just before the two-year statute of limitations on a possible civil action was set to expire, an insurance company representing the Leesons has filed suit.

It's against the City's Recreation Coordinator, Mark Atkinson, whose salary this year is budgeted at $59,259.00. Bill Leeson is the Solicitor for the City, and they both work in the same building. Jay Leeson is a former Solicitor and member of City Council who currently serves as a United States District Court judge.

Selective Insurance Company, acting as the subrogee of the Leeson law firm and DMAR Construction, filed suit in Northampton County on February 3. Atkinson, who lives on the 4300 block of Greenfield Drive, is named as the Defendant in what is known as a writ of summons. Simply put, that is a notice to a person that he is being sued, and is a way to keep a claim alive when the statute of limitations is set to expire.

Nobody's talking. Attorney Steve Kluxen, who filed the writ of summons, failed to return a phone call seeking information. Bill Leeson, who is City Solicitor, also declined to comment on the case. Atkinson failed to return several calls.

Atkinson incidentally is one of ten City workers who shared in a $1 million Powerball jackpot just days after the arson.

No criminal charges have been filed against Atkinson.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Guilty before being proven innocent in a court of law?

Anonymous said...

Very Odd!

Anonymous said...

What the hell are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

Oooch,
The game begins, The Caining of the Boil epicentralized¿!)$ This will be bringing the boil, cyst and zit together in the regionalism blight white boxZ built analZ canalZ, four different entitieZ and the count will only riZe out of hell correogrphyZZZZed¿!)$ There has to be a connection between the upper partZ and the lower partZ to this triboro circus ruZtbeltZ warn by those in this browne hole collusional tool¿!)$ ALLways claiming ignorance to factZ and putting to print fictisious cartoon chacteriZationZ to fumble the numberZ¿!)$
redd for Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Atkinson should call the FBI, take a plea, and reveal what inside rot he is aware of.

Anonymous said...

So is he being charged by the DA or insurance company? Insurance company a family member looking to recoup some of the payout? How much was/is the payout?

Anonymous said...

I have to say that i an shocked by this. I had heard they suspected arson but I always assumed some disgruntled client. Mark is really a good guy. This whole thing is bizarre. I would have to assume if the police had enough evidence, given the Leeson connection to the Mayor and The DA criminal charges would have been brought.

Anonymous said...

"Guilty before being proven innocent in a court of law?"

Who said he is or is being assumed to be "guilty" of anything? This is notice of intent to file a civil lawsuit That's all it is. You can sue anyone for anything. Who knows what is behind it. Maybe smoke, maybe fire.

Anonymous said...

Appears to be a lot of winking & nodding going on and the little guy is getting setup to take a fall.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Appears to be a lot of winking & nodding going on and the little guy is getting setup to take a fall."

That's nonsense. If that were true, Atkinson would have been in jail long ago. This is a claim asserting civil responsibility, which has a lower burden of proof and a lower threshold for imposing liability. The action had to be filed, or the Leesons would be barred from suing by the statute of limitations. They are doing what they have to do to preserve their rights.

As I explained in my story, Leeson did not even file the action. His insurance company, acting as his subrogee, did. It obviously wants to recoup some of the money spent on restoring the property.

I have heard nothing but good things about Atkinson. I know there are no judgments against him, and he does not appear to have ha so mch as a traffic ticket. Nevertheless, Leeson's insurer believes Atkinson bears some responsibility for the fire. It migght thing he set it or that he acted negligently and presented conditions in which someone else could have set the fire.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
There is all so the Orloski incident, that makes 2 AB¿!)$ There is a missing part to the culdesac once known as the triboro¿!)$ This would see top law dogs are involved in this soul sale subdiVISIONal tools of this particular subsect in the circus effect infecting us all, ie hounds from hell pyrotecniqs manipulational crew of court jesters that have many suBOARDnantZ locally and abroad¿!)$
redd for Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

The fix is on within our criminal justice system. Brothers who are lawyers and judges and intertwined throughout the system and most likely have some sort of association with the insurance company. Lower burden of proof is bullshit, arrest him and go to trial and let his peers of a jury decide, not behind closed doors among insurance companies and lawyers!

Bernie O'Hare said...

They have the same association with the insurance company that any property owner who pays a premium has. They are customers. That insurance company is seeking some of the money it shelled out. Civilly. Yet you are again anonymously claiming a fix in the criminal justice system, which is completely absurd. If that existed, Atkinson would have been arrested long ago. Instead, police are investigating before they charge a person who is presumed innocent. In a civil case, Atkinson has a right to demand a jury trial and let his peers decide his liability, too. What you are doing is is actually unfair. You are claiming that bc the Leesons are lawyers, they have no rights. They do. And that suit had to be filed bc the statute of limitations was set to expire.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So is he being charged by the DA or insurance company? Insurance company a family member looking to recoup some of the payout? How much was/is the payout? "

I'm sorry, but I can't help people with poor reading skills. One sentence you missed is that Atkinson has not been charged with anything. He has been sued by the insurance company that had to pay for repairs to the building. Also, insurance companies don't "charge" people. They sue.

Anonymous said...

"The fix is on within our criminal justice system. Brothers who are lawyers and judges and intertwined throughout the system and most likely have some sort of association with the insurance company. Lower burden of proof is bullshit, arrest him and go to trial and let his peers of a jury decide, not behind closed doors among insurance companies and lawyers!"

This reminds me of a line from a Seinfeld: "Do you know what you are talking about? Because I don't think you do." Define "most likely". What evidence is there? How exactly can an insurance company charge someone with a criminal act? Frankly, your conspiracy theory makes it sound like you are "most likely" talking out your *(!.

Anonymous said...

Bernie

I am an avid reader of you blog and wholeheartedly appreciate the work you do, but you may have been a bit premature on this one. It's clear that the insurance company filed the Writ just to preserve their ability to file suit against Mr. Atkinson. However, you've failed to realize (or ignored) that posting this blog article about a Writ of Summons being filed by an insurance company with a photograph of a flame with a caption that says "Arson" is borderline yellow journalism. You know as well as anyone that the burden of proof in a civil case is essentially the same as probable cause ("more likely than not"). Considering the fact that probable cause is needed to charge someone with a crime and the Bethlehem Police have not even charged Mr. Atkinson with a crime, don't you think it's a bit disingenuous to give the appearance that Mr. Atkinson is responsible for the Arson? The Bethlehem Police department conducted the investigation and are currently investigating the crime. Don't you think they would know more than anyone else who is responsible for the fire? An insurance company issues a Writ of Summons and that's a newsworthy story? How do you even know the two are related? A Writ of Summons doesn't include the subject matter of the lawsuit. I am just trying to figure how or why you made the connection. Was it because it's been 2 years, or almost 2 years since the fire? The Complaint has not even been filed. I am sure you have your reasons for writing this article and I am sure I'll get called out for posting this anonymously, but I have my reasons just like you. Like I said, I respect and appreciate the work you do. It's not easy. In fairness, I sincerely hope that you post another article if it turns out that the insurance company does not file a Complaint and/or Mr. Atkinson is not charged.

Anonymous said...

Hard to downplay what has happened here. Insurance company investigators cooperate with the official fire investigators. When the insurance company files the case, they know who did it. They don't file without good reason. They prefer to not move further with their lawsuit until the criminal case is resolved. The filing tells me there is likely a criminal case pending against the guy. So, the guy is a great guy? I'll bet he has been on his best behavior hoping this would not catch up with him some day but that when it did people would say he's a great guy.

Anonymous said...

What did the mayor know and when did he know it?

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:55, There is no dispute that the fire was intentionally set. It is an arson, as determined by the fire marshal. The question is who is responsible? That is a question many have been asking for the past two years. This lawsuit answers that question. In the eyes of the insurance company that had to cover this considerable loss, Atkinson is the person responsible. He has been named as a defendant, and that piece of information is something the public has a right to know. The lawsuit is a matter of public record. What is the point of requiring it to be a public record if the public is never informed?

I am well aware that the standard of proof in a civil case is far lower than in a criminal case, and for all i know, the insurance company theory may be that Atkinson is negligent and did not act intentionally. He may have done something negligently that led to the arson. I don't know. But I do know two things. First, there was an arson. Second, the insurance company that paid for this loss believes Atkinson bears some responsibility. Given his position as a public employee and at the very same municipality where Leeson serves as Solicitor, this is information the public should know. The insurance company was not filing simply as an insurance company, but as the subrogee for the Leeson law firm and the company that did the restoration. So the suit is most definitely directly related to the undisputed arson. There is no other explanation. I believe I had an obligation to tell this story.

I will certainly continue to follow it. If it turns out that no complaint is ever filed or that Atkinson is never charged, I will report that as well.

This is a serious matter, and is complicated by the fact that no charges have been file. But since the insurance company believes that Atkinson has some responsibility, and since he is the city's recreation coordinator, the public has a right to know.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, if they could prove that Atkinson was criminally responsible for the fire, he would be charged. He does not need to be criminally responsible to be held civilly liable. Just as OJ Simpson was not criminally responsible, but was determined to be civilly liable.

If Atkinson did it, what was the motive?

Anonymous said...

I think you are assuming a lot here. The insurance company had the file the Writ just in case because the statute of limitations is approaching. How many times have Writs been filed that don't go anywhere and the Writ is subsequently withdrawn? You have not even seen the Complaint. How could you possibly know what the insurance company's theory of responsibility is? I don't think the filing of a Writ answers any questions at all. It was simply a preservation of a claim if they in fact have one. Has there never been a case where a civil suit was filed against the wrong person or for the wrong reasons? I am in no way saying this isn't a newsworthy story. It most certainly is. I am saying that you jumped to numerous conclusions to make the filing of a Writ a newsworthy story at this time. It's clear based on the comments that some of readers clearly think Mr. Atkinson committed the arson. What you did was take the fact that this has been ruled an arson and that an insurance company filed a Writ against Mr. Atkinson, which is one of the ways to initiate a lawsuit, and equated that to Mr. Atkinson being responsible for the arson. You may have played it safe so this article couldn't be construed as defamation (libel), but you completely jumped the gun on this for whatever reason. I'll be interested to see what this Complaint says if it is ever filed considering no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Atkinson. Hypothetically, if your friend from West Easton was assaulted (criminally) by an unknown assailant and her medical insurance carrier filed a Writ against you, would it be fair to write an article insinuating that you were somehow responsible for the assault?

Anonymous said...

Being held criminally responsible (convicted) is not the same thing as being charged. OJ was charged with the murders and found liable at the civil trial because its the same burden of proof.

Also, how can someone be negligently responsible for an intentional act committed by someone else (Arson)? Perhaps if there were some legal relationship between two parties where one party was responsible for the other's actions (parent-child, etc.) then it's possible. However, without that type of relationship an intentional act would likely be an intervening/superseding cause and the negligent party would not be liable.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am assuming nothing. We know that (1) there was an arson; (2) the statute of limitations on any civil claim was set to expire; (3) the suit was filed by the insurance company acting as subrogee for the Leeson law firm as well as the firm that did the restoration; and (4) the sole person named as bearing civil responsibility is Atkinson. The hypothetical you raise actually happened. I was named in several lawsuits and falsely accused. I defended myself and won. I am well aware of the lost honor attached to just being named in a lawsuit. Newspapers felt obligated to report on the false rants made against me, and that is their responsibility. The public has a right to know. I feel compelled to report that the insurance company that paid for this arson has asserted a claim against the person considered to be civilly, if not criminally responsible. These are matters of public record, and the public has a right to knwo, especially given the vast amount of public dollars spent in combating what was a three-alarm fire and the uncertainty that has gone on since then. If you don't want to know what is going on, you are free to bury your head in any sandpile you want.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"how can someone be negligently responsible for an intentional act committed by someone else (Arson)?"

Very simple. Let's say you are at the offices cleaning and leave, but fail to secure the premises. Then someone else comes in and sets a fire. At that point, you can be held responsible for negligence. Also, you can be sued civilly for an intentional act.

Anonymous said...

What was the point of showing this mans income?I do recall in the near past, when asked about the salary of Allentown city employees, someone went ballistic and extolled the virtues of said employees.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The point of showing his income is to demonstrate that he is paid well enough and to have little reason to resort to criminal behavior. He is obviously a valued employee. I thought it relevant.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers reported when someone filed a Writ against you?


My point from the beginning was that no claim has been filed because no complaint has been filed. The Writ is simply notice that a claim MAY be coming. If the insurance company was that confident that they had enough evidence holding Mr. Atkinson civilly responsible they would have just filed the Complaint. And if their evidence was enough to hold Mr. Atkinson civilly responsible, the Bethlehem Police would have filed criminal charges already. Everyone desperately wants to know who committed the arson, as do I. But the conclusion you drew or insinuated in this article was not fair at this point in time. If the Complaint was filed then that's a different story. I haven't read a single article where the Bethlehem Police even had a suspect.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Newspapers reported false claims made against me in a civil proceeding. A writ of summons is often newsworthy, and this is one of those instances. A writ of summons is not a notice that a claim may be coming. It is a civil action, and is one of the two ways that exist to file a civil action. There is nothing tentative about it. You have not read a single article in which police state they had a suspect, and that is all the more reason why this story is newsworthy. In the mind of the insurance company, Atkinson is responsible civilly. Had a complaint been filed, I would be able to provide their theory. But the writ of summons by itself is enough to tell me Atkinson has been sued and is considered civilly responsible. That is something the public has a right to know.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? That hypothetical you proposed about leaving the office door open wouldn't survive a Motion for Summary judgment. No way on earth an insurance company wastes money paying an attorney to file a lawsuit based on those facts. Like I said, the intentional act would be an intervening/superseding act--no liability. So if you invite me over to your cave and ask me to lock the door when I leave, I forget, and someone comes in and assaults you (or worse), you're saying I am going to be civilly liable for your injuries? Regardless, you think it was fair to write this article the way you did based on the possibility that Mr. Atkinson left a door open? You are better than that, Bernie. I've seen it.

Anonymous said...

Does a Judge have to approve the writ? Is there some sort of hearing that takes place before you can sue someone?

Anonymous said...

No. There is no hearing. There is nothing. Anyone can file a writ against anyone else. All they have to do is pay a filing fee. They can then withdraw/dismiss the Writ without any real consequence.

Orange Pekoe said...

Too bad the attempted torching of that Lilliputian esquire from Whitehall wasn't as successful.

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:48, You have no idea what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

I've read that most gay men have premature ejaculation's and can assume that you are a gay man Mr O'Hare as you are blogging premature assumptions on this mans reputation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Orange Pekoe is referring to the attempted arson of Rick orloski's law offices a few years ago The comment was posted by either Mezzacappa or the Blog Mentor, as I suspect is this case with the recent attempts to marginalize what is a newsworthy story.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I've read that most gay men have premature ejaculation's and can assume that you are a gay man Mr O'Hare as you are blogging premature assumptions on this mans reputation."

OPnce their arguments are shredded, they resort in typical fashion to anonymous personal attacks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

I just deleted three comments and will host no additional comments that I believe are coming from the blog mentor .

Sprained & Strained said...

When is the PA Bar going to put Sick O' Rick 0' out to pasture?

Anonymous said...

The twit brigade showed up today, making 3rd grade comments about sexual functions, and cheering arson. Why not grow the hell up - it's at least 30 years overdue for you.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie, Arson cases are the most difficult to prove.This subrogation may be a tactic to hold off statute just a little longer . Subrogation occurs if there multiple policies or coverages that inter mingle in a claim . It does not mean anybody's a criminal. Example, Your grandmother who does not drive or own a car ,lives in your home walks out to the mail box and gets clipped by a truck -the EMS people take her to ER they start billing medicare for this-wrong- and it is really 1st party benefit on your auto -so away we go with paper chase for months. I don't know, but if an attorney's office is torched ,i'd be look n at who the atty . was dealing with that just lost their shirt in the same time frame.

Anonymous said...

Bernie maybe the law firm is suing the person w his approval. not cool but to keep case alive.

Anonymous said...

this family lost treasures antiques family artefacts

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Your blog allthough this one not a shit slingging Ron Angle story is just about as good¿!)$ This being those bought and paid for suposid mouthpieces are trying to set presednce out here on your blog¿!)$

There are many many multifaceted CONCOCKtions manipulated by these sorts, the truth is the truth and there could be many many LIEabilties in a mutifaceted malfunktional break down of the browne hole investigatory process¿!)$ Than there is also the deversionary hostel tactiks used against said whistel blowers¿!)$

Now participants propogadized coCONspereITing with Church on the Run go in peace and serve your dark underlordZ, the dog catchers have been out and about in there big black truck topped with a turet¿!)$

redd for Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Leeson and Donchez are not speaking to one another. Leeson will be replaced soon. Things are getting ugly for Bobby.

Unknown said...

Had there been any new information on this matter beyond your blog post of about 10 days ago?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will check the Prothy records to see if a complaint has been filed.

Unknown said...

Thank you

Bernie O'Hare said...

As of 3/17, I saw no record of a complaint being filed.

Unknown said...

Thanks again