Law Firms

Law firm can sue competitor for allegedly using case runners to poach clients, appeals court says

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briefcases of money

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A New York appeals court is allowing a personal injury law firm to pursue a tortious interference claim against competitors who allegedly used case runners to poach its clients.

The Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department of the New York Supreme Court ruled for law firm Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez & Winograd in an April 27 opinion noted by the Legal Profession Blog.

The New York Law Journal has coverage.

Ginarte Gallardo’s $30 million lawsuit, filed in October 2018, had claimed that its clients were lured away with promises of payments of about $2,000 or $3,000, which were paid from a “briefcase full of cash.” The suit alleged that the competitors had sent case runners to a pain clinic where they enticed patients to switch firms.

The New York appeals court said solicitation of legal business is a misdemeanor that would support the tortious interference claim.

The defendant law firms are William Schwitzer & Associates in New York and solo practitioner Rene Garcia, which shares a business address with the Schwitzer firm, according to a lower court decision in the case. Ginarte Gallardo has offices in New York and New Jersey.

Randy Mastro, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, represents the Schwitzer firm and some lawyers there who were named as defendants.

“Almost all of this frivolous, vexatious lawsuit has now been dismissed,” he told the New York Law Journal in an email. “We’re down to one remaining claim, and that tortious interference claim is demonstrably false.”

He added that “the Ginarte firm’s publicity-stunt lawsuit smearing its arch rival with this false narrative is destined to fail.”

Clifford Robert of Robert & Robert represents Ginarte Gallardo.

“The defendants’ repeated attempts to delay this case have now come to an end,” he told the New York Law Journal in an email. His client “looks forward to engaging in discovery and holding all the defendants accountable for their alleged misconduct.”

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