The Outcome of a Court Case Isn’t Always Predictable
When a case is brought to court, it can sometimes be a toss up whether the person initiating litigation will win his or her case. Things often become even more complicated when the case concerns members of the legal community. If a lawyer is brave enough to attempt to battle a law firm, the outcome can be utterly unpredictable.
Manhattan Supreme court Justice Charles Ramos has confirmed an arbitration award to the law firm Holland & Knight along with interest and attorney fees in a claim filed against former partner Charles Gibbs. The award includes an additional $17,469 in interest and $323,266 in attorney fees for Holland & Knight’s costs incurred in the arbitration, totaling $772,084.
The law firm alleged Gibbs owed money for work as a guardian ad litem at the firm. But, the whole ordeal actually began three years ago when Gibbs filed suit against Holland & Knight for $1.5 million he claimed was owed to him due to being underpaid for a period of time.
Gibbs, in his 80s, alleged his pay should have been governed by a December 2002 employment agreement, but it wasn’t followed in 2012 and 2013. A December 2013 letter issued by the firm to Gibbs indicated he would be an “inactive senior partner” in 2014, and when he objected to the notice, Holland & Knight sent him a subsequent termination letter. His dismissal was effective at the end of March of 2014.
In his suit filed the same year, Gibbs claimed Edward Koren, the partner who heads up the firm’s trusts and estates practice, reduced his origination credit and ended up pocketing a portion himself. Following the initial complaint, Holland & Knight general counsel Michael Chapman said in a statement:. “Mr. Gibbs’ compensation has been determined on an annual basis in full accordance with our partnership agreement. He has chosen to ignore the terms of our agreement and to bring an inappropriate suit. We will vigorously defend these claims.”
Last year, in 2016, Holland & Knight was awarded arbitration against the pesky ex-partner in the amount of $431,318. An outcome Gibbs couldn’t have anticipated. Arbitrator Betsy Plevan, a Proskauer Rose partner, found that while there is no express provision in the partnership agreement to transfer the guardian ad litem fees to the firm, Gibbs had a duty to do so, and yet a large portion of the work was actually handled by other Holland & Knight attorneys.
“It started as a claim by him against the firm for additional compensation…and it ended up being a judgment against him for almost 800,000,” Michael Delikat, Holland & Knight’s lawyer and a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, said, pointing out the irony of the outcome thus far. “That’s quite a reversal of how the case started.”
Gibbs’ attorney, Clifford Robert, said the initial claim against Holland & Knight remains their top priority. They will continue to seek the payments allegedly due to his client. In a statement, Robert said, “This has been a long, drawn-out, and complex case and [the] arbitration award on one narrow issue was merely a step along the way.”