Philadelphia defense firm Swartz Campbell has sued Valley Forge, Pa.-based Chartwell Law Offices at least in part over a recent lateral move that resulted in the closing of Swartz Campbell’s Fort Myers, Fla., office and the opening of a Fort Myers location for Chartwell.
Swartz Campbell filed a writ of summons in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Commerce Court program on August 14.
While a complaint has yet to be filed, a “Commerce Program Addendum to Civil Cover Sheet” was submitted with boxes checked off indicating that the suit pertains to “actions relating to the internal affairs or governance, dissolution or liquidation, rights or obligations between or among owners (shareholders, partners, members) … including but not limited to any actions involving interpretation of the rights or obligations under the organic law (e.g., Pa. Business Corporation Law), articles of incorporation, by-laws or agreements governing such enterprises.”
Two other boxes were checked indicating that the dispute also involves “trade secret or noncompete agreements,” as well as “‘business torts,’ such as claims of unfair competition, or interference with contractual relations or prospective contractual relations.”
The following day, Chartwell issued a press release announcing the opening of a Fort Myers office with the hiring of James R. Myers, who had been the managing partner of Swartz Campbell’s Fort Myers office.
Jessica A. Teitelbaum, previously an associate in Swartz Campbell’s Fort Myers office, has also joined Chartwell as a partner, according to the press release.
G. Daniel Bruch Jr., a member of Swartz Campbell’s management committee, said Friday that the suit is related to the move, but referred questions about the details of the suit to committee chair Jeffrey B. McCarron, who declined to comment on the suit.
Bruch said he anticipates the matter will go to mediation or mandatory arbitration pursuant to the firm’s partnership agreement.
Myers and Teitelbaum were the only two lawyers working in Swartz Campbell’s Fort Myers office and, as of Thursday, the firm’s website no longer contained any references to the office.
Clifford A. Goldstein, chief executive officer of Chartwell, said Thursday he did not know what Swartz Campbell’s suit pertained to.
“I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “It’s just a writ. It doesn’t give us any idea what’s on their minds.”
According to Goldstein, attorneys from Swartz Campbell’s Orlando office, which was shuttered late last year, had contacted him as the office was winding down its operations.
After meeting with Goldstein, some of those Orlando lawyers put him in touch with the attorneys in the Fort Myers office.
That eventually led to Chartwell hiring Myers and Teitelbaum and acquiring new office space in Fort Myers.
Goldstein said he decided to bring Myers and Teitelbaum aboard because he liked them as people and because some of the work they do, including construction defect and general liability litigation, meshes well with Chartwell’s practice.
“It should fit nicely with what we’re doing in Miami,” he said, referring to the other Florida office the firm opened about a year-and-a-half ago.
Goldstein said Chartwell is “still working on” an office in Orlando, as well.
Myers did not return a call for comment. McCarron declined to comment on the move.
Both Myers and Teitelbaum, who officially joined Chartwell two weeks ago, focus their practices on civil litigation defense, including insurance claim disputes, as well as construction defect, commercial contract, premises liability and personal injury claims.
Myers, who joined Swartz Campbell in 2001, had been the managing attorney of its Fort Myers office since 2004.
The addition of Myers and Teitelbaum does not mark the first time Chartwell has hired attorneys away from Swartz Campbell.
Last year, Thomas F. Reilly joined Chartwell’s Philadelphia office after more than a decade at Swartz Campbell, bringing with him Allan Scholler, a former Swartz Campbell associate.
Goldstein said Thursday that opening a Fort Myers office was another step toward Chartwell’s goal of building up a presence that spans across the state of Florida, according to Goldstein.
According to Goldstein, the firm felt it needed “more depth and more bench strength” in Florida in order to attract larger cases from clients.