Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has closed the book on a lawsuit alleging the firm didn’t do enough to scrutinize a $19 million investment that a Tampa-area surgeon agreed to put into a local Arena Football League team.
Buchanan Ingersoll and the surgeon, Dr. Robert Nucci, filed a stipulation Friday in Tampa federal court, indicating that they had reached a settlement of Nucci’s lawsuit against the firm and agreed to dismiss the case. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich formally signed off on the dismissal Saturday. The terms of the settlement were confidential.
Nucci’s lawyer in the case, Adam Hall of Hall, Lamb & Hall in Miami, said in an email Monday that the suit was “amicably resolved.” A spokeswoman for Buchanan Ingersoll declined to comment. The firm tapped Clay Coward of Wicker Smith O’Hara McCoy & Ford in Orlando as outside defense counsel.
The settlement puts to rest a suit that Nucci initially filed against Buchanan Ingersoll in Florida state court in February 2015, although the case was removed to federal court about a month later.
Nucci, an orthopedic spine surgeon, alleged that he hired Buchanan Ingersoll in 2007 to advise him on a purchase of the Tampa Bay Storm, a franchise in the Arena Football League. Looking to use the team ownership as a way of promoting his medical practice in the Tampa Bay area, Nucci went through with the purchase—agreeing to an initial $9.6 million payment, $3.6 million of which came through loans—in November 2007.
Although he had hired Buchanan Ingersoll to provide legal counsel, Nucci claimed that he didn’t know while making the purchase that becoming an owner of a team also made him a part owner of the Arena Football League itself, which was then in a precarious financial position. After the 2008 season, owners met to discuss debt and other financial struggles facing the professional sports league; ultimately the 2009 season was canceled and the league filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to Nucci’s complaint.
Nucci, in turn, lost money on his investment in the team and was forced to file for personal bankruptcy in September 2010, according to his lawsuit. The surgeon claimed that Buchanan Ingersoll could have, but failed, to thoroughly examine his plan to purchase the football team, and that the firm could have advised him to build in safeguards that might have shielded him from the league’s poor financial performance.
Buchanan Ingersoll denied Nucci’s allegations, saying in court papers that the doctor took several steps toward purchasing the football team without engaging the law firm for legal counsel. The firm also alleged that Nucci knew that the Tampa Bay Storm and the Arena Football League were consistently posting financial losses, and said that his true motivation for making the purchase was not to make money, but to reduce his liquid assets while he was in the midst of a divorce proceeding.
“The plaintiffs were negligent through their own conduct and that such negligence was the sole, proximate or contributing cause of the damages complained of,” the firm wrote in a March 2015 answer to Nucci’s complaint. “Nucci is a sophisticated businessman and retained an extensive team of professionals who, along with Nucci, researched, investigated, and negotiated (often without the knowledge, input, or counsel of Buchanan) the terms of plaintiffs’ purchase.”