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Legal Malpractice Case Filed Against Sidley Partner (Docket Scanner)

Oct. 24, 2016, 10:42 PM

Big Law Docket Scanner looks at which law firms are filing suits and which are being sued. This week, we found a couple items that rose above the run-of the-mill lawsuit over unpaid fees.

Below, we have legal malpractice claims, and one case in which Cravath, Swaine & Moore is being subpoenaed in a case alleging human rights and civil liberty violations against its client, Royal Dutch Petroleum, in the Netherlands.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at the suits involving Sidley Austin, Cravath, Barnes & Thornburg and Sullivan & Cromwell:


  • Carrie Birkel filed a complaint againstSidley Austinand attorney Edward McNicholas in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago on October 18. It brings claims of legal malpractice and fraud and involves an individual named Dean Garcia, who operated his company, Strategic Investigative Services, out of Sidley Austin’s Washington, D.C. office and is not named in the suit. According to the complaint, Garcia approached Birkel with photos of her husband in a compromising position with another woman, and convinced her to use the services of McNicholas to vet divorce lawyers for her. Birkel signed a retainer with McNicholas who in turn connected her with a divorce lawyer who eventually obtained a $10 million settlement with her then-husband. After the divorce settlement, Birkel continued to use McNicholas for various legal matters. At some point, the lawsuit claims he and Garcia convinced Birkel to invest her settlement in a company Garcia had formed called Toybox, explaining that they needed the funds to secure a contract with the Department of Defense. Per the complaint, Garcia was subsequently arrested for mail fraud. At that point, it was uncovered that the DOD contract never existed and that Garcia had spent Birkel’s investment on a home in Orange County, California and other luxury items, according to the lawsuit. Birkel ended up investing $6.3 million, has recovered $4.7 million and is seeking damages of no less than the $1.5 million she has yet to recover.


  • Esther Kiobel filed a brief in the Southern District of New York on October 12 seeking permission to issue subpoenas against Cravath, Swaine & Moore. The request was for the production of documents for a lawsuit expected to be filed in the Netherlands. The lawsuit is connected to a previous case in which Kiobel was a lead plaintiff, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. In this case, Kiobel alleged human rights and civil liberty violations against the oil and gas giant’s operations in Nigeria’s Ogoni region. The Dutch case, expected to be filed in late 2016, intends to allege that Royal Dutch conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against the Ogoni people. Cravath represented Royal Dutch in the U.S lawsuits and this application intends to obtain the discovery from those cases.


  • Reserve Media, a company providing restaurant technology products, filed a complaint againstBarnes & Thornburgon October 11 in the New York Supreme Court. Reserve had hired Barnes & Thornburg to handle its intellectual property matters, according to the lawsuit. The company alleges that when Barnes did a trademark search before filing the “Reserve” mark, the firm failed to identify registered marks owned by Efficient Frontiers, a financial consultancy based in the United Kingdom. As a result they are now facing two lawsuits over trademark infringement. Reserve is seeking damages for legal malpractice in excess of $1 million.


  • Sullivan & Cromwell filed a petition in the New York Supreme Court on October 7 against the Tax Commission of the City of New York. The firm is claiming that a tax assessment on their 125 Broad Street property is excessive.

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