April 15, 2022 • Schneps Media
NEW YORKER of the WEEK
Fighting the good fight for ailing New Yorkers and families
BY ALAN KRAWITZ
New York City-based attorney Eleni
Coffinas has been fighting for her
clients’ rights for decades.
As part of NYC-based firm Sullivan
Papain Block McGrath Coffinas
& Cannavo since 1993, Coffinas leads
one of the firm’s medical malpractice
units and has fought for and won numerous
high-profile and high-dollar
Some of those settlements include
a $31 million verdict, the largest of its
kind in New York, in a matter involving
a failure to diagnose breast cancer as
well as a $61.66 million verdict on behalf
of a baby who suffered brain damage
as a result of oxygen deprivation
Asked about her start in the legal
profession, Coffinas stated her decision
to become a lawyer wasn’t much of a
decision at all.
“I was following in the family business
when I decided to become a lawyer,” she
said, adding that her father was a judge in
Brooklyn and both her older and younger
sisters are also lawyers.
“We grew-up thinking law was the
only career that was out there and that
there were no other options,” added
Coffinas, who graduated from Brooklyn
Law School and has been recognized
in New York magazine and Super Lawyers
magazine as one of the top lawyers
in New York.
During the first 10 years of her career,
Coffinas was a trial lawyer, focusing on
medical malpractice and general personal
injury work. “An example might be a
housing project where someone gets hurt
in a common area,” she noted.
Coffinas explained that her work as a
trial lawyer was the best training to become
a medical malpractice lawyer because
it taught her how to “try a case and
not get stuck under the weight of volumes
of medical records. “It taught me how to
really find what’s important…how to put
a case together without drowning under
all the paper,” she added.
When working on a trial, she said,
“I feel like you’re working when you’re
sleeping,” adding that she goes to sleep
thinking about how she’ll handle opening
remarks in a trial and then wakes-up
with those same thoughts.
Further, she stated that while she
still finds trial work the most interesting
part of her job, the most fulfilling
is helping give people relief that
they desperately need.
“When you can get that person
money, in lieu of being able to restore
their health…the fight for justice and
their health is really gratifying,” she explained,
adding that it “helps them to
know that somebody is on their side or
that a jury agreed with them in holding
Many of Coffinas’ clients have various
degrees of cancer, even some who are at
“There’s definitely a social worker-type
aspect to the job, where I’ll ask people
how they’re doing during chemotherapy
and tell them we’re rooting for you and
that you’re inspiring,” she said.
She added that she works with clients
who have suffered serious physical injuries
in a “very caring and personal way…
every client is their own unique individual
and we go on the journey with them.
When the case is settled, that’s where
satisfaction comes in.”
Coffinas said she gets most of her satisfaction
out of seeing these people get
their “moment of relief by compensating
people to help ease some of that pain.”
For example, Coffinas asked, “How do
you give a future to kids who’ve lost their
mother during childbirth? The money really
can make a difference in those scenarios.”
She said that while she can’t fix
the physical, “sometimes, we can help
repair the spirit.”
Coffinas pointed out out that some of
her toughest cases are those involving
parents losing children: “It’s hard when a
parent must continue on without a child.
We walk a fine line in that situation.”
Other difficult cases include those
involving breast cancer, many of which
can be serious and or terminal. “When
you look across the table at someone who
you know is supposed to die sooner than
later, it’s difficult,” she said.
“But you never have that conversation
about the inevitability of the outcome
and focus instead on what that person is
doing to live, what helps them, such as
prayer, yoga. We talk about what helps
them to live.”
Some people, said Coffinas, ask her if
it’s depressing being around sick people.
“I tell them no, that it’s actually very inspiring
to be around this group of people
who are forced to tap into an ‘inner
strength’ on a daily basis,” adding that
the goal for some clients is to “live to see
another day” and the fight for justice.
Asked about healthcare system changes
she would like to see, Coffinas said
people should have equal access to quality
healthcare. “It’s a very unequal system
that needs to be changed. Money vs.
no money. Poorest vs richest neighborhoods…
there’s so much unfairness.”
While Coffinas admitted her free time
is devoted to her daughter, her husband
and dog, she managed to become a certified
yoga instructor in 2016.
“I always wanted to do it. Yoga helps
me to become calm, learn something
new and give me perspective,” she said.
“Especially since I don’t have a calm job.”