Reed Smith can implead other law firms in defense of malpractice suit, appeals court says
By Martha Neil
Jan 25, 2013, 09:28 pm CST
Sued by a former client over its handling of a gin trade-name issue, Reed Smith has won a round in the ongoing litigation.
The law firm can implead three other law firms that also allegedly provided bad advice to Millennium Import concerning its Belvedere brand, a New York appellate court panel held Thursday, reversing a state supreme court ruling.
Initially sued by the Belvedere winery when it marketed a Belvedere vodka, Millennium settled that case by purchasing a $30,000 license. But in 2004, the winery wrote Millennium a letter saying it it had plans to license the Belvedere name to a gin distributor, Reuters reports. Reed Smith drafted a response saying that act might infringe certain rights in the Belvedere mark that Millennium had acquired. The winery’s said that Millennium’s response was a breach of the licensing deal. Reed Smith then had California law firm, Berry & Perkins, prepare a response making the same assertion. After that letter, the winery sued Millennium.
Millennium resisted, but eventually settled a breach of contract suit for $83 million. Millenium says that Reed Smith’s responses to the winery were responsible for the lawsuit and judgment and now seeking to recoup the damages it suffered. It is owned by LVMH, which markets luxury items such as Moet champagne, the news agency notes.
The three firms at which Reed Smith pointed the finger are Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg; Berry & Perkins; and Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu. Reed Smith declined to comment; the other firms did not immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment from Reuters.
“Where several law firms allegedly participated in giving the advice that led to the plaintiff’s damages, the sole law firm named as a defendant must be entitled to bring the other law firms in as parties to the action to ensure that it has the ability to fully protect its rights,” wrote the Appellate Division, First Department, in its unanimous decision.