A dispute over a local litigation firm’s breakup is heading to arbitration in November.
Former law partners Mark Cuker and Esther Berezofsky have agreed on a panel of arbitrators to handle their case, which Cuker filed in Philadelphia court in May. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in June, and Berezofsky filed a motion to compel arbitration.
Cuker and Berezofsky were partners at Williams Cuker Berezofsky from 2000 to 2017, Cuker’s complaint said, along with Gerald Williams. The firm broke up last September, and each of its name partners have either founded or affiliated with new firms.
Cuker has alleged that Berezofsky breached the dissolution agreement with regard to disbursements from the dissolved firm’s operating account, and with regard to co-counsel arrangements agreed to in the dissolution process.
New Jersey lawyer Carlo Scaramella, who is representing Berezofsky, said the complaint includes “mischaracterizations and misstatements,” and should not have been filed in court in the first place. “The matter is being vigorously contested in the arbitration,” he said.
According to the complaint, Williams Cuker Berezofsky exhausted its credit line in January 2017 and lacked adequate cash flow to continue operating without employee layoffs or partner contributions. Cuker and Williams contributed $300,000 between the two of them, the complaint said, but Berezofsky did not. Instead, Cuker alleged, Berezofsky continued to take a $4,000 weekly draw, for a total of about $80,000 during that period.
Ultimately, the partners chose to dissolve the firm, and executed a dissolution agreement in September. That agreement included provisions for the amounts each partner should be paid, the complaint said, based on their contributions, which was over $181,000 for Williams, over $143,000 for Cuker, and just under $8,800 for Berezofsky.
Cuker has alleged that Berezofsky violated the dissolution agreement by refusing to authorize Cuker’s and Williams’ disbursements. Cuker also alleged that Berezofsky misappropriated fees from medical device settlement claims that came in after the dissolution.
Additionally, Cuker alleged that Berezofsky excluded Cuker from a class action related to water contamination in Flint, Michigan, when the dissolution agreement said they would serve as co-counsel in that litigation.
The parties filed a joint report Sept. 7, which said their arbitration is scheduled for the week of Nov. 13. The three-arbitrator panel consists of lawyer Angelo Scaricamazza, retired Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Richard Klein and retired Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Sandra Mazer Moss.
Cuker is representing himself in the case. He did not return a call seeking comment Monday.