The influential Upper East Side psychologist Albert Ellis, who died yesterday at 93, won a lawsuit in 2005 that forced the board of the Albert Ellis Institute, which he founded in 1959 and practiced from for decades, to reinstate him after he’d essentially been thrown out. But he had new litigation pending against the institute when he died yesterday, and his lawyer says he’s prepared to continue the suit on behalf of the estate. The breach-of-contract action was filed in New York Supreme Court on June 6, and it seeks to have the institute reimburse Ellis for medical expenses he paid out of pocket and return his personal papers and documents, which the lawyer, Michael B. deLeeuw, claims were suddenly “put under lock and key” last spring.
The suit also hopes to gain Ellis — or, now, his estate — control of the institute’s six-story townhouse on East 65th Street, which was bought with Ellis’s book royalties and in which he lived and worked since the early sixties. (It’s now worth around $20 million.) The institute argues that Ellis had run out of Blue Cross and Medicare coverage, and it was his own obligation to cover further health-care costs. “Dr. Ellis’s personal papers are his papers, but our position is that client files belong to the institute,” executive director Robert E. O’Connell added. O’Connell notes this is only the most recent of three suits Ellis had filed against the institute in his final years. No doubt he’s happy at least one remains. —Mary Reinholz