Legal Ethics

Katten Sanctioned for Phoning Plaintiff in Resort Robocall Suit

Jan. 26, 2021, 10:55 PM

A Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP attorney violated the American Bar Association’s anti-contact rule by phoning the plaintiff in a robocall lawsuit without permission, and now the firm must cover a portion of opposing counsel’s fees and costs, the Northern District of Illinois said Tuesday.

Magistrate Judge Sunil R. Harjani partially granted George Moore’s motion for sanctions before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The judge found that Katten partner J. David Washburn’s October phone call to Moore ran afoul of the professional responsibility rule generally prohibiting attorneys from contacting other parties while a lawsuit is pending.

Moore’s attorneys at Keogh Law Ltd. and Paronich Law PC are entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs associated with bringing the sanctions motion, the court said without stating a precise figure. But the judge declined a request to disqualify Katten from representing timeshare resort company Club Exploria LLC against Moore’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act claims.

Washburn didn’t call just any telephone number disclosed to defense counsel during discovery, “he called the subject number at the heart of this lawsuit,” the court said, justifying the need for sanctions.

One of Club Exploria’s defenses against the merits of Moore’s case is that his phone number may have been tied to other individuals in the years leading up to the telemarketing calls, according to the opinion.

But Washburn was on notice from the very basis of Moore’s claims that Moore may very well answer that phone number if it were called—which is exactly what happened, the court said.

Moore’s motion for sanctions said he received a phone call in October and that a “David Washburn” asked who had answered the number he’d just dialed. Washburn purportedly identified himself to Moore as an individual, and failed to disclose that he was representing Club Exploria against Moore’s lawsuit, according to the opinion.

The firm didn’t have permission from Moore’s counsel to make such a call, and Katten didn’t dispute Moore’s version of events for the purposes of the sanctions motion, according to the opinion.

The case is Moore v. Club Exploria LLC, N.D. Ill., No. 19-cv-02504, 1/26/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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