Law Firms

Suit claims competitors lured away legal clients with payments from 'briefcase full of cash'

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A $30 million lawsuit filed last Monday alleges a personal injury firm had its clients stolen by two competitors who sent case runners to a pain clinic where they enticed the patients to switch firms.

The law firm Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez & Winograd, with offices in New York and New Jersey, alleges 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” by lawyer William Schwitzer. The New York Law Journal covered the lawsuit.

Schwitzer and his firm, William Schwitzer & Associates in New York City, are defendants, along with a few other lawyers there. Another defendant is solo practitioner Rene Garcia, said to have an office at Schwitzer’s firm.

The suit alleges the case runners denigrated Ginarte’s capabilities, even though the firm has more than 30 lawyers and experience handling countless cases. In addition to promising up to $3,000, the runners also offered to obtain financing for the clients’ cases and said they would not have to pay back any loans previously taken out, the suit said.

The clients at the pain management clinic were offered Uber rides to the competitors’ offices and then to their homes. Once at the competitors’ offices, the clients would be subjected to “high pressure sales tactics” that included “extravagant promises,” the suit claimed.

When the clients switched, the new law firms refinanced the client loans at a higher interest rate, according to the suit.

Ginarte suspected something was amiss after receiving several substitution letters indicating the clients had switched to the Schwitzer and Garcia firms, the suit said. There was a common link: Each of the switching clients had been referred to a pain management specialist that the suit referred to as “Dr. X.”

The suit alleges tortious interference with contract, defamation, unfair competition, civil racketeering, conspiracy, unjust enrichment and violation of New York law banning deceit of courts and clients.

A spokesman for William Schwitzer & Associates and the lawyer defendants told the New York Law Journal that the suit was baseless and without merit, and the two people named as runners in the suit are not employed by the firm. The spokesman said Ginarte was motivated by “professional jealousy of our firm’s success.”

“We are preparing a counterclaim that will expose the lies in their complaint,” the spokesman said.

A person who answered the phone at Garcia’s firm told the ABA Journal there would be no comment.

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