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Law Firm Objects to Fee Split in Discovery Dispute

December 1, 2021 | Posted in : Expenses / Costs, Fee Dispute, Fee Splitting / Sharing

A recent Law360 story by Lauren Berg, Buchanan Ingersoll Objects to Fee Split in Discovery Dispute,” reports that Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC told a Pennsylvania federal judge that it shouldn't have to shoulder an equal portion of the fees owed to a special master in a contract dispute with a medical device company, saying its former client's discovery blunders caused unnecessary costs.  The special master's services were unnecessarily expanded when Best Medical International Inc. didn't follow discovery rules, ignored deadlines, didn't produce an adequate privilege log and made confusing productions, according to Buchanan Ingersoll's motion.

"Whether this was an intentional delay tactic or negligence is moot; the fact is, the special master was forced to perform the work Best Medical and its lawyers should have done," Buchanan Ingersoll said.  "There is no justification for Buchanan to be required to pay half of this expense."  The law firm said it wants Best Medical to pay 100% of the special master's fees and costs that were generated before June 24 because all the work done before that date was rendered useless by the company's "malfeasance."

The special master's fees generated after June 24 should also be reapportioned, from a 50/50 split to a 75/25 split for wasting the special master's time, Buchanan Ingersoll said.  Best Medical, which manufactures radiotherapy products, sued Buchanan Ingersoll in July 2020, alleging the firm overbilled it for patent litigation services, according to the complaint.  Buchanan Ingersoll denied the allegations and filed counterclaims in September 2020, saying it provided Best Medical with monthly billing estimates but that the company stopped paying its bills.

In its motion, Buchanan Ingersoll said a special master was appointed in the case in March after Best Medical didn't produce all relevant documents in a discovery request.  Best Medical argued that the missing documents were protected by attorney-client privilege, so the special master was tasked with reviewing the documents and evaluating the privilege claims, the motion states.  Buchanan Ingersoll said the fee split was set at 50/50 for the task of reviewing about 180 documents, which it estimated should have taken the special master three to four hours to complete.

For the work he did before June 24, the special master billed $7,346, for which Buchanan Ingersoll said it paid 50%, or $3,673.  For work done after June 24, the special master billed $25,144, for which the firm was responsible for 50%, or $12,572, according to the motion.  The firm said Best Medical should have to pay all the bill for the work before June 24 and should pay 75% of the bill for work after June 24 because of its improper conduct.