The insolvency administrator for a German aviation company sued Mayer Brown in Texas state district court in Houston on May 27, alleging the firm was grossly negligent when it failed to properly file some financing documents related to an $8 million loan the company purchased from a bank.
Plaintiff Dr. Achim Ahrendt, the insolvency administrator for Thielert AG, which started "insolvency proceedings" in Hamburg, Germany, in 2008, seeks a minimum of $10 million in damages from the Chicago-based firm.
Ahrendt brings legal malpractice/professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duties, breach of contract and unjust enrichment causes of action against Mayer Brown, and also seeks attorney fees.
Ahrendt alleges Mayer Brown was grossly negligent in representing Thielert, which manufactures high-performance engines and components, when Thielert bought the loan from PNC Bank in 2006. As a result of the firm's negligence, Ahrendt alleges, Thielert may not be able to recover all of the loan proceeds from the debtor, Superior Air Parts Inc., because Coppell-based Superior filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Brian Pitts, assistant director of public relations for Mayer Brown, which has a Houston office, says the firm declines comment.
As alleged in the plaintiff's original petition in Dr. Achim Ahrendt v. Mayer Brown LLP, Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank made a loan in 2002 to Superior, and the financing statement filed with the Texas Secretary of State to perfect PNC's security interests in Superior's assets was valid until May 31, 2007.
In 2006, Thielert bought the loan from PNC; at that time the loan was valued at about $8 million. Ahrendt alleges Mayer Brown properly filed an amendment to the financing statement that listed Thielert as the new secured party. However, Ahrendt alleges, the firm failed to file a continuation of the financing statement or a new financing statement with the Texas Secretary of State that would have extended the term of the statement past May 31, 2007. As a result, the financing statement lapsed on May 31, 2007, Ahrendt alleges in the petition.
Because of Mayer Brown's gross negligence, Thielert's security interests in Superior's assets were "not properly perfected," Ahrendt alleges. Superior makes Federal Aviation Administration-approved replacement parts for Lycoming and Continental aircraft engines and manufacturers other engines.
On Dec. 31, 2008, Superior filed a petition for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Texas. In February Superior filed an adversary proceeding against Thielert, seeking to avoid Thielert's liens under §544 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code because Thielert's security interests were not properly perfected.
Ahrendt alleges that because of Mayer Brown's negligence, Thielert's claim is "relegated" to the position of an unsecured creditor, instead of a secured creditor, in Superior's bankruptcy.
"If Mayer Brown had fulfilled their obligations to Thielert, Thielert would be a secured creditor in the Superior bankruptcy case entitled to payment in full of its secured claim. Based on Mayer Brown's gross negligence, Thielert will receive, at best, pennies on the dollar for an unsecured claim," Ahrendt alleges in the petition.
Ahrendt is represented by lawyers from Bickel & Brewer in Dallas, including Michael Collins, who says no individual lawyers were named in the suit because the plaintiff alleges Mayer Brown is liable for the damages and is the entity with the malpractice insurance coverage.
"Our dispute is with Mayer Brown," Collins says.
The suit is assigned to 189th District Judge Bill Burke.