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. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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