A record label company has filed a malpractice suit against Gibbons; Troutman Sanders; and Baker & Hostetler, arguing it was prevented from recouping legal fees because a litigator who practiced at all three firms failed to properly keep billing records.
New York-based TufAmerica Inc. filed the suit against the three firms and Oren Warshavsky, an intellectual property and litigation partner now at Baker & Hostetler. Warshavsky practiced at Gibbons from 2001 to 2006 and then at Troutman Sanders from 2006 to 2008 before joining Baker & Hostetler, the complaint said.
“Because Warshavsky failed to maintain proper records—records that would have included copies of his firms’ billing statements— TufAmerica was unable to prove to the satisfaction of the [court] that it had incurred attorney fees, and that those fees were reasonably related to its defense” in another case, according to the complaint in TufAmerica v. Warshavsky, 157795-2012, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Nov. 7.
TufAmerica, which owns the Tuff City Music Group hip-hop record label, said it retained Warshavsky in August 1999 and the conduct described in the suit spanned his time at all three firms.
According to the suit, Warshavsky defended TufAmerica in two related lawsuits, one in Louisiana state court and one in New Orleans federal court, filed by the same musician plaintiffs.
TufAmerica claims the state court case was an attempt to negate contracts between the plaintiffs and TufAmerica that were upheld in the federal suit. The plaintiffs in the state court suit also sought royalties allegedly due from TufAmerica.
As part of the company’s defense in the state suit, Warshavsky and Gibbons maintained that TufAmerica had a right to withhold from the plaintiffs the amount of attorney fees the company had incurred in the federal case, according to the malpractice suit.
But, TufAmerica alleges, Warshavsky failed to maintain billing records from the federal case that would describe his work and would support the amounts TufAmerica claimed it was entitled to debit the musician plaintiffs against their royalties.
That failure prevented TufAmerica from supporting its position that it was entitled to deduct nearly $100,000 in legal fees, the company claims.
TufAmerica also claims Warshavsky failed to properly communicate with the company and local counsel and alleges he failed to represent TufAmerica adequately for other matters.
TufAmerica quotes a local counsel’s 2006 email to Warshavsky as allegedly saying, “I am still [trying] to get in touch with you on the Motion to Compel. I have called you everyday for almost two weeks now and have not heard back.”
The suit claims the damages are more than $150,000.
Kelly Talcott, a Nassau County attorney who represents TufAmerica, did not return messages seeking comment.
Warshavsky and representatives of Baker & Hostetler and Gibbons did not return messages seeking comment about the suit.
Troutman spokesman Mark Braykovich said the firm “believes it has no liability in this lawsuit.”
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