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A Fulton County, Ga., judge has tossed out fraud and breach of contract claims made by a former employee against a firm established to capitalize on the dot-com boom. On Tuesday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes granted a summary judgment motion by an attorney for the Red Hot Law Group of Atlanta. Johnston v. Red Hot, No. 2001-cv-34424 (Fult. Super. May 7, 2002). The firm was acquired by Long Aldridge & Norman last fall and is now known as the Red Hot Law Group of Long Aldridge & Norman. “That ends the plaintiff’s case,” said James D. “Dart” Meadows, a partner at Meadows, Ichter & Bowers who had been defending Red Hot. But Red Hot’s counterclaim against former employee Carl R. Johnston stands, he said. Johnston’s attorney, Richard S. Alembik of Decatur, Ga., was in depositions and was not available for comment. Johnston sued Red Hot last year alleging fraud and breach of contract. Claiming he was owed stock from an incentive plan that was promised but never implemented, Johnston sought $37,000 in compensation. The firm, founded by Evelyn A. Ashley, hired Johnston as of counsel in March 2000. He remained on staff only five months before Ashley fired him. But in his complaint, Johnston claimed he was fired for refusing to perform illegal and unethical acts. He alleged the firm had promised him in a terms-of-employment letter that, from the day he began working there, he would participate in a stock incentive plan. That plan was never implemented. Red Hot’s counterclaim alleged that Johnston was fired because he had overbilled clients who then had complained about “outrageous” charges. In his order, Barnes rejected Johnston’s breach of contract claims. For Johnston to collect the compensation he sought, Red Hot’s promise of future compensation in the form of stock would have to have included an exact sum easily determined from his employment contract, the order stated. “The provision in the letter agreement between the parties simply does not provide any method for determining how much [Johnston] would have made had the stock incentive plan been implemented,” Barnes wrote. Barnes also tossed out fraud and racketeering allegations against Red Hot. Actionable fraud, he wrote, cannot be based on promises of future events nor result from a simple failure to keep a promise if there was never any intent to break. Meadows said he didn’t know whether Red Hot would pursue its counterclaim against Johnston. That claim alleges that Johnston breached his employment contract by failing to bill clients properly, by overbilling, and by defaming Red Hot in print. “I’ve got to talk to my clients in terms of what their intentions are,” he said.

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