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 new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  2. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

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  4. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?

  5. Research by William J Federer Chief Justice John Marshall commented May 9, 1833, on the pamphlet The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina (The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles Hobson, Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006, p, 278): "Reverend Sir, I am much indebted to you for the copy of your valuable sermon on the relation of Christianity to civil government preached before the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston, on the 13th of February last. I have read it with great attention and advantage. The documents annexed to the sermon certainly go far in sustaining the proposition which it is your purpose to establish. One great object of the colonial charters was avowedly the propagation of the Christian faith. Means have been employed to accomplish this object, and those means have been used by government..." John Marshall continued: "No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion to the happiness of man even during his existence in this world. It has at all times employed his most serious meditation, and had a decided influence on his conduct. The American population is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it. Legislation on the subject is admitted to require great delicacy, because freedom of conscience and respect for our religion both claim our most serious regard. You have allowed their full influence to both. With very great respect, I am Sir, your Obedt., J. Marshall."