Sample Case Descriptions
A woman was catastrophically and permanently injured when a co-worker ran into her while operating heavy machinery. We were hired to investigate and to make appropriate claims against those responsible. We discovered that the co-worker had been given improper instructions regarding the operation of heavy machinery while on prescription pain killers, and we pursued a claim against the responsible party.
A gas smoker exploded, killing the owner/user. We were hired to investigate the cause of the explosion. We filed suit against the seller/manufacturer of the smoker on behalf of the wife and minor children.
RISK ANALYSIS and LITIGATION AVOIDANCE
An employee health insurance plan was plagued with problems, including embezzlement of premiums, deviations in the plan design from the structure and coverage requested, excessive fees and commissions, and careless administration of claims. The plan failed, and multiple claims and suits were pursued by state insurance regulators, and by plan participants, individually and in class actions, nationwide. We were hired to lead the investigation into the causes of the failure, and make appropriate claims against those responsible. We were asked to coordinate the resolution of outstanding claims of plan participants, respond to the issues raised by various state departments of insurance, locate applicable liability insurance protection, and negotiate appropriate settlements to resolve the claims, with contribution from multiple parties and entities.
A major component assembly supplier to the automotive industry was unhappy with the quality and the cost of sub-assemblies it was receiving from its vendors under "requirements" contracts. We were asked to evaluate the sub-assembly "requirements" contracts to help the supplier formulate a strategy to deal with the problem that was least likely to result in costly litigation.
An inventor/engineer patented a process and entered into a complicated contractual relationship regarding the process with his employer. When the inventor/engineer was not adequately compensated after he was terminated, we were hired to analyze the value of his claim and to pursue it.
A national restaurant chain entered into a contract with a major brand soft drink supplier to purchase its "requirements" from that supplier, in return for the supplier's promise to provide sophisticated marketing services specifically designed for the restaurant chain. The restaurant chain felt that the marketing proposals offered were generic and inappropriate, and sought to terminate the contract. We were hired to file suit on behalf of the restaurant chain in federal court for breach of the marketing contract, and to challenge the sufficiency of the contract language to require the exclusive sale of the soft drink manufacturer's products.
A lawyer developed a medical condition which made it impossible for her to continue to work because of frequent, disabling occurrences, even though she was able to function normally between episodes. She was determined to be totally disabled by the Social Security Administration, and by her long-term disability insurance carrier. She hired us when, ten years later, the insurance company launched a campaign to seek to remove individuals collecting disability benefits and unilaterally terminated her benefits, even though there had been no evidence of a change of condition, and all of her treating physicians continued to maintain that she was totally disabled.
An emergency room doctor at a Level 1 trauma center developed a debilitating heart condition which severely limited his endurance. He could not physically tolerate an emergency room practice, where the type and the duration of the medical emergencies were out of his control. He could continue to practice medicine on a full-time basis, but he was forced to abandon his area of specialty and experience, resulting in a dramatically-reduced income. We were employed to resolve a dispute with his disability insurance carrier, which denied his claim, concerning whether its policy's definition of partial disability encompassed a professional who was able to continue to work full time, but only under modified work conditions which resulted in substantial income reduction.
An independent contractor working at a sales company on a commission basis, sold computer systems and software programs to school districts. The process required substantial product knowledge, understanding of the public procurement systems and procedures, and a great deal of salesmanship and persistence. Contracts could be for high six-figure and seven-figure totals, and the sales process would typically take many months. The sales company was "too successful," and the software vendor attempted to avoid the commissions by terminating the sales company just before contracts were signed and/or approved, substituting in-house personnel to conclude the transactions. The written contract did not permit the avoidance of the commission obligation under those circumstances, and Indiana employment statutes imposed potentially-significant penalties for the defendant's conduct. We represented the contractor in seeking to obtain payment of the commission obligation.
A large turbine generator at an electrical power plant had internal blades spinning at 3600 revolutions per minute through clearances of fractions of an inch. Balancing the rotors properly was critical, or vibrations could occur which would quickly result in catastrophic failure. When a major electrical utility's turbine generator crashed, we litigated its claim against the entity whose maintenance error resulted in that failure.
Two clients specialize in helping companies identify and implement different strategies for minimizing sales, use, and/or inventory taxes. They provide their services on a contingent fee basis, where they are paid a percentage of the tax refunds they obtain, and the reductions in tax liability they are able to generate over a two-year period, by their recommendations. Because modifications in operational strategies affecting tax have potential consequences beyond the tax savings, it is necessary for them to provide their clients with detailed information concerning how the tax savings are to be obtained, after their client executes an appropriate agreement to pay the contingent fee if the proposed strategies are implemented and result in the promised tax savings. Both of our clients experienced problems with their clients who received the consulting services, implemented them on their own, and refused to pay the fee, alleging loopholes in the agreements for compensation, or asserting that the proposed new tax strategies were "obvious," despite the fact that they had not been recognized or implemented before. The more successful the proposed tax strategies proved to be in generating large tax savings, the more reluctant some companies were to pay the contingent fee for their generation. We were hired to resolve the unpaid tax consulting fee issue, and to recommend modifications to the engagement letter our clients had drafted to seek to eliminate ambiguities and loopholes.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE LITIGATION
A landmark Indianapolis commercial real estate property experienced short-term financial issues, largely as a result of 9/11. "Angel investors" were brought in to get past the business turndown, and were paid a healthy premium. When the business had recovered financially, and the angel investors had been repaid, a dispute arose concerning the extent to which the angel investors would be entitled to additional and ongoing payments. We were hired to pursue arbitration on behalf of the general partner, challenging the angel investor group's interpretation of the ongoing obligations under the agreement.
A real estate investment trust specializing in medical properties owned a number of licensed, specialized health care facilities. These facilities were partially protected from competition by state regulations which limited the number of such entities that would be allowed to provide services to Medicaid patients. The real estate investment trust leased the operation of its facilities to licensed operators, under contracts intended to protect the facility's valuable government certifications. One of the operators reached agreements with the State to de-certify our client's properties, and effectively transfer the economic value of Medicaid certification to new facilities owned or controlled by the operator. We filed suit in federal court to obtain damages for the lost certification rights.
The minority shareholder in a two-shareholder business enterprise had received a 10% ownership interest in the company, in return for agreeing to take over as the chief operating officer of a stagnating direct-sales business. Over a period of years, he transformed the company into a highly-successful finance company for its modest sales business, and for similar direct-sales businesses, increasing the company's earnings and value dramatically. But when the majority owner reached retirement age, he terminated the minority owner and tried to invoke a buy-sell agreement right to buy out the minority interest at a "book value" price, which was only a fraction of the fair market value of the proportionate interest in the business. We were hired to file suit on behalf of the minority shareholder.
A law firm partnership dissolved, shortly before the successful termination of a very substantial contingent fee matter. The written partnership agreement did not deal with accounting for contingent fee work in progress upon partnership dissolution. The dispute over the accounting went to trial, and was appealed, because it was one of the first cases to deal with the obligations of partners upon dissolution in the context of law firm contingent fees. The decision was one of the landmark cases defining the application of partnership law to law firm dissolutions.
A co-op sponsored an ERISA self-insured health insurance plan designed to cover the employees of the cooperative's member companies. Within two years, the plan was insolvent and numerous employee claims could only be paid by special assessments of the members. The plan had been badly designed, and material information concerning the plan had been concealed from the co-op. Had that information been revealed, the co-op would not have agreed to sponsor the plan, and other arrangements for the member companies' employees' coverage could have been obtained. The administrator had failed to make timely and accurate reports to the co-op of the plan's financial condition, resulting in severe under-reporting of the amount of outstanding and unpaid claims. This failure prevented the co-op from identifying the plan's structural flaws, and taking timely action to minimize plan losses. On behalf of the co-op, we filed suit against the plan designer and plan administrator.
We served as local counsel in the defense of an employer sued in an FLSA collective action case.
We served as local counsel in the defense of a toy manufacturer in an intellectual property case.
We served as local counsel in the defense of an insurer sued in an anti-trust collective action case.
A private water utility had been a wholesale customer of a rural water company. When the water company raised its rates precipitously, the private water company decided to build a small reservoir and furnish much of its own water for distribution to its customers, to cut back on its purchase of wholesale water at the inflated rate. The rural water company sought to enjoin the private utility from producing its own water supply, relying upon a federal statute which protected rural water companies from competition while they were recipients of outstanding federal loans. After the Federal District Court enjoined the private water company's development of its own water supply, we were hired to appeal that ruling to the 7th Circuit.