ILNews

Bad breakup leads to lawsuit between former associate, firm

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today on a case where a law firm sued its former associate who left, along with several other employees, to join a new firm.

In Kopka, Landau & Pinkus v. Larry Hansen, et al., No49A02-0611-CV-987, Hansen's previous employer, law firm Kopka Landau & Pinkus, appealed two trial court orders -summary judgment in favor of Hansen and judgment in favor of Hansen on the counterclaims against KLP.

Hansen worked as an associate attorney for KLP and was an at-will employee. In September 2000, Hansen quit along with four associates and three support staffers. All those who resigned joined Hansen at the law firm Skiles Hansen Cook & DeTrude, where Hansen became a partner.

KLP filed a complaint of eight counts against Hansen and his new law firm. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hansen and SHCD on all eight counts. Hansen's two counterclaims against KLP - malicious prosecution and compensation and damages to Hansen pursuant to the Wage Payment Statute - were granted in Hansen's favor.

KLP appealed Count 1 of its complaint - breach of fiduciary duty by Hansen - and the judgment in Hansen's favor on his new law firm's claims.

KLP argued Hansen breached his fiduciary duty to KLP when he spoke to other employees about how much money it would take to have them join him at SHCD before leaving KLP. Although he expressed a desire to find positions for the KLP employees at his new firm, there is no evidence that Hansen made formal offers to any KLP employees or his actions constituted anything more than preparation to compete with KLP, so the Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment in Hansen's favor on Count 1 of KLP's complaint, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The Court of Appeals did reverse the trial court's decision to award damages and attorney fees pursuant to the Wage Payment Statute in Hansen's favor. The money he was owed was a bonus and he eventually received the payment from the firm. Despite the delay, his bonus does not fall under "wages" for purposes of the Wage Payment Statute and he is not entitled to up to double the unpaid wages and attorney fees for not receiving that bonus within a certain time period.

KLP did breach a contract with Hansen owing him the bonus money and Hansen argued that he is entitled to the prejudgment interest on those damages. The Court of Appeals remanded this matter back to the trial court for a calculation of the amount of prejudgment interest to which Hansen is entitled.
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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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