Posted Oct 31, 2012 03:44 pm CDT
Updated: A solo practitioner has filed a lawsuit against Boies Schiller & Flexner claiming the law firm used deception to snag his clients, Colombian nationals suing Chiquita Brands International for alleged support of guerrilla violence.
The suit (PDF) by solo Paul Wolf claims Boies Schiller used a Colombian agency to mislead the clients, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. Some of the clients were led to believe Boies Schiller was associated with Wolf, the suit says, and some were not aware the documents they signed named Boies Schiller as their new law firm. Wolf alleges Boies Schiller conspired with other lawyers to persuade his clients to sign retainer agreements that barred them from filing claims outside of pending multidistrict litigation.
Nicholas Gravante Jr., Boies Schiller’s general counsel, gave a statement to the BLT that said the suit is “utterly lacking merit.” The statement says “a contract attorney” filed the complaint after being excluded from the MDL group “for uncooperative and inappropriate behavior.”
In an interview with the ABA Journal, Wolf acknowledges that he is working as a contract lawyer for a large law firm, but said he had to take the job so he could continue to support his office in Colombia where he worked for five years on behalf of Chiquita plaintiffs. He says he did propose that the large law firms fund his Colombia office in a joint effort, but they rejected the idea.
Wolf says he represents 10,000 to 12,000 Chiquita plaintiffs and has about 2,200 cases in the multidistrict litigation. He acknowledges some disagreements. “I’ve been professional, but I have not agreed to most of the things that the MDL committee wants to do,” he said.
In mass tort litigation, he said, “you start losing the ability to make decisions about cases because they’ve been combined with other cases and all of the decisions have to be made by committee.”
Wolf told the ABA Journal he started the litigation after setting up the office in Colombia near Chiquita operations. He did the legwork, Wolf said, and “these guys came in later and basically raided my clients.” His clients know him, he said, including 98 people who offered sworn declarations disputing the Boies Schiller representation. Large law firms don’t have the same personal touch, he said.
“Basically the problem in mass tort litigation is that there are so many clients that most of the lawyers don’t ever meet any of them,” Wolf said. “They want to stay in New York and Washington, D.C., and file these briefs, and subcontract and subcontract and subcontract,” rather than personally meet the clients.
“It really a rough world, the mass tort world.”
Updated at 3 p.m. to include comments by Wolf.