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Louisiana Personal Injury Firm Sanctions Upheld in Conflict Row

May 26, 2022, 10:51 PM

A personal injury law firm in Louisiana convinced a state appeals court to affirm $7,500 in sanctions and attorneys’ fees in connection with a case in which the firm was accused of having a conflict of interest.

Rental equipment company Ahern Rentals Inc. sued former employees including Scott Helms and Chadd Turnage alleging theft of confidential information after they were hired by Ahern’s competitor, EquipmentShare.com Inc. Helms and Turnage were rehired at Ahern after losing their jobs at EquipmentShare, and Ahern moved to disqualify their former counsel at Veron Bice Palermo & Wilson LLC from representing the remaining individuals.

Veron opposed disqualification and sought sanctions, asking why Ahern hadn’t dismissed its employees from the action and raising concerns about confidential strategies in litigation. The trial court rejected the bid for disqualification, and granted the sanctions request in the amount of $7,500 in costs and fees.

The Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit, affirmed that ruling Wednesday. The appeals court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s ruling that Ahern was delaying the dismissal of Helms and Turnage as defendants in an attempt to gain information about EquipmentShare’s strategy.

“There is evidence that the motion at issue in this case was filed to cause unnecessary delay and as an abuse of process,” Judge Elizabeth A. Pickett wrote in the opinion. “Further, we find that the award of $7,500.00 for court costs and attorney fees is not an abuse of discretion.”

J. Michael Veron told Bloomberg Law on Thursday that the firm is “happy with the ruling,” but declined to provide additional comments.

Helms and Turnage are represented by DeRosier Law Firm LLC. Veron represents itself.

Judges Kent Savoie and Van H. Kyzar joined the decision.

The case is Ahern Rentals Inc. v. Green, La. Ct. App., 3d Cir., No. 21-767, 5/25/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com