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. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

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