ILNews

Judge denies summary judgment for law firm

Jennifer Nelson
February 15, 2010
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Note: This is a corrected version of the original Feb. 15, 2010, story. 

A federal judge has denied summary judgment for an Indianapolis law firm accused of selling stock held in escrow while the firm acted as a receiver of a company.

U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney denied Riley Bennett Egloff's motion for summary judgment Feb. 12 in Neil Lucas, individually and on behalf of Phonebillit, Inc., as shareholder v. Riley Bennett Egloff, No. 1:07-CV-534. Neil Lucas, a shareholder of Phonebillit, filed his suit in 2007 accusing the firm of having a conflict of interest in its role as custodian and then receiver of Phonebillit Inc.

There was a dispute among Phonebillit's owners as to how much stock each owned. Lucas' suit accused the firm of unreasonably liquidating Phonebillit's assets, making unauthorized payments to another owner, Steven Sann, and selling Lucas' stock in Brightpoint that was held in escrow at Sann's suggestion. Lucas claimed the sale caused him to lose more than $75,000 because the proceeds were placed in a low-interest savings account.

A settlement was reached in September 2008 on all of the issues except the stock sale, which the court found to be personal to Lucas. RBE moved for summary judgment on that issue, arguing that Lucas asserted a claim for legal malpractice which entitled the firm to an affirmative defense based on the business judgment rule.

Lucas argued that RBE's liability stemmed from its duty as an escrow agent. Judge McKinney wrote the parties' arguments based on those theories are misplaced.

"This case presents a claim against a receiver for the alleged breach of the duties it owed to one of the receivership's creditors or one with whom the receiver was in privity," wrote the judge.

Lucas didn't assert a claim for legal malpractice, nor did he present a claim against an escrow agent. Also, the business judgment rule has no place in the litigation, the judge continued, because RBE was an arm of the court as the receiver. Judge McKinney denied Lucas' motion to strike the firm's affirmative defenses and RBE's motion for summary judgment on those defenses because there are triable issues of fact. He also denied the firm's motion for judgment as a matter of law or involuntary dismissal.

At the Feb. 26 pre-trial conference, the court will address whether RBE's motion in limine and request for a protective order is moot; and RBE's motion to exclude expert testimony, including specific testimony from Lucas. A jury trial has been set for March 8.

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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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