Law Firms

Law firm and former partner battle over $11M referral fee

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A Pennsylvania law firm and one of its former partners are battling in court over the right to an $11 million referral fee.

On one side is former Elliott Greenleaf partner Richard DeMarco, who said he obtained the client who was badly burned in an explosion caused by a leaking propane tank on a food truck, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

On the other side is the Elliott Greenleaf firm, which said it entered into the agreement referring the case to a different law firm that obtained an estimated $70 million settlement for the client.

The agreement called for referral counsel to charge a 40% contingency fee and to pay 40% of its fee as a referral fee.

DeMarco was of counsel at the firm when he signed the client, Zoila Santos-Gabriel, in 2014. The 17-year-old girl washed dishes and cooked on the food truck.

He was promoted to partner the next year. In 2016, DeMarco left the Elliott Greenleaf to join another law firm.

DeMarco said Elliott Greenleaf agreed that he would take the matter and referral fee to his new law firm, according to previous coverage by Law360. Elliott Greenleaf said there was no such agreement, and DeMarco “secretly solicited and procured” a letter from the client stating that he and his new firm should receive compensation.

In an initial court skirmish, DeMarco and Elliott Greenleaf battled over whether the suit should be heard in Philadelphia or Montgomery County, where the firm has deep ties. The appellate-level Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled for Elliott Greenleaf on that issue in January.

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