Attorney Fees

Suit targets billing by litigation support companies, names Jacoby & Meyers as a defendant

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A would-be class action suit claims Jacoby & Meyers and another law firm are breaching their fiduciary duty to clients by giving support work to companies owned by a current and former partner of the law firms.

The suit, filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, alleges that Jacoby and Finkelstein & Partners bill separately for work sent to Total Trial Solutions, MedTrial Solutions and CineTrial Solutions, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. But services provided by Total Trial Solutions “appear to be of the type of services which are reasonably expected to be performed by law firms as a part of the services to be provided under a contingent retainer agreement and included as part of the contingent percentage fee to be paid by a client to a law firm,” the suit claims.

According to the suit, the litigation support companies are owned by Andrew Finkelstein, a partner of both Jacoby and Finkelstein, and Kenneth Oliver, a former partner of both firms, the story says.

The New Jersey Law Journal summarizes the suit’s allegations. The name plaintiffs, Nancy Harding and her son, Jeffrey Harding, were represented by Finkelstein & Partners in two separate slip-and-fall cases, the complaint says. They didn’t hire Jacoby & Meyers, but the two firms apparently share offices in Newburgh, New York, and many of the firms’ lawyers are the same, says the Hardings’ lawyer, Joseph Santoli.

Nancy Harding obtained a $195,000 settlement and paid $21,000 in disbursements, including $3,870 to Total Trial Solutions, which received $225 to “locate liability expert,” $2,599 for “review file/drafting,” $23 for “professional service” and $1,019 for “file/review/editing,” the complaint says. After disbursements were deducted, Finkelstein & Partners got a one-third contingency fee on the remaining amount.

Jeffrey Harding obtained a $99,280 settlement and paid $11,000 in disbursements, including $2,968 to Total Trial Solutions for “future special needs,” according to lawsuit allegations cited by the New Jersey Law Journal.

The Hardings signed retainer agreements that said some of the services provided in the case might be provided by companies owned by Finkelstein and Oliver, the suit says. The agreement also said that services provided by the support companies may be available for less money from other vendors, and the law firm would notify the clients if it believed there were other cheaper vendors, so the clients could choose the other companies, according to the suit. The Hardings say weren’t given the opportunity to hire other vendors.

Finkelstein and Oliver did not return the New Jersey Law Journal’s calls for comment.

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