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Marathon commercial litigation that led to one of the largest verdicts ever in Alameda County, Calif., — $96 million — has now resulted in a huge legal malpractice suit. In litigation filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Chicago-based Fruit of the Loom has alleged negligence to the tune of at least $80 million on the part of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, the firm on the losing end of the huge verdict. At the root of the negligence suit is a 1981 deal in which a lighting component company in Danville — LMP Corp. — sold a device designed to save energy in fluorescent lamps to Universal Manufacturing Co. Universal promised to try to develop and market the device and pay a share of the proceeds to LMP. But it later claimed the device, called an electronic lighting ballast, was defective and not marketable. LMP, represented by Eugene Crew, now of San Francisco’s Townsend and Townsend and Crew, sued Universal for breach of contract, winning a $26 million jury award in 1990. On appeal, Universal was granted a retrial — which proved disastrous for the manufacturing company. In 1994, a second jury found against Universal, and awarded $96 million in compensatory and punitive damages, an amount that was affirmed on appeal. Universal was a subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom Ltd. at the time of the breach, and although Universal was later sold to Nashville-based MagnaTek Inc., litigation between MagnaTek and Fruit of the Loom established that the latter had to pay the award. Fried Frank defended Universal in the 1994 retrial, and Thursday’s suit — Fruit of the Loom v. Fried, Frank, BC 239166 — alleges the Fried Frank defense team failed to keep Fruit of the Loom apprised of risks, settlement opportunities and the progress of the second trial. Ultimately, the case was settled for more than $80 million, according to the suit. “They failed to advise the client,” says Larry Feldman of Santa Monica’s Fogel, Feldman, Ostrov, Ringler & Klevens, now representing Fruit of the Loom. “And they never passed it along that they were losing a lot of motions to reduce the size of the claims.” One of two co-counsel that led the defense team, Allen Kezsbom of the New York office of Fried Frank, called the new lawsuit “nonsense” but declined to comment on the specific allegations. The firm’s co-chairs were out of town Friday and unavailable to comment. According to the suit, negotiations between Fried Frank and Fruit of the Loom tolled the statute of limitations, so that the timing of the filing is not a factor. The suit names all of Fried Frank’s partners individually. Not named was a former Pillsbury Madison & Sutro partner, Philip Judson, who helped defend Universal in the first and second trials. Judson, now in the Austin, Texas office of Skjerven Morrill MacPherson, said he is “surprised” and “sorry” to see the suit filed

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