For a second time, a judge has denied Boies Schiller & Flexner’s summary judgment motion seeking legal fees against a former client—family members of Modell’s Sporting Goods scion Mitchell Modell.
Boies Schiller represented Shelby and Leslie Modell, a mother and daughter embroiled in a long-running dispute with Mitchell Modell over his leadership of the family’s East Coast retail chain (NYLJ, Aug. 29, 2013).
The firm withdrew from representing the two and sued the Modells in two separate actions in New York state court last year, claiming it is owed $438,206 by Shelby Modell and $156,749 by Leslie Modell for its work on a number of actions stemming from the family feud and estate litigation.
Shelby and Leslie argued they regularly objected to the firm’s billings. Leslie held power of attorney for Shelby.
Boies Schiller asserted that the cases brought against Shelby and Leslie are based on separate retainer agreements and it represented the two separately.
But Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh (See Profile), in a March 6 decision in Shelby’s case, said many of the firm’s invoices “reference conversations with or emails to Leslie, raising questions of fact regarding the extent to which the legal work for, and possibly the billing to, Leslie and Shelby overlapped.”
The judge said Shelby has raised “sufficient questions of fact” to preclude the firm’s summary judgment motion for legal fees.
In October 2013, Singh also denied the firm’s summary judgment request in its case against Leslie, finding that her objections to firm invoices “pose a genuine dispute between the parties.”
In each decision, Singh allowed Shelby and Leslie to continue a counterclaim for breach of contract against the firm, while dismissing other counterclaims. Shelby is seeking the return of about $983,000 paid to the firm, while Leslie is seeking $1.2 million.
Shelby and Leslie’s attorney, Larry Hutcher of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said the parties will proceed to discovery. “You never know what is contained in the firm’s records,” Hutcher said.
George Carpinello, a Boies Schiller partner representing the firm, did not return a message seeking comment.