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Law Firm Sues Over Share of FLSA Fee Award

September 29, 2020 | Posted in : Contingency Fees / POF, Fee Agreement, Fee Allocation / Fee Apportionment, Fee Award, Fee Dispute, Fee Dispute Litigation / ADR, Fee Entitlement / Recoverability, Practice Area: Class Action / Mass Tort / MDL, Settlement Data / Terms

A recent Law 360 story by Matt Fair, “Greenblatt Pierce Sues Over Share of $5M FLSA Fee Award,” reports that Greenblatt Pierce Funt & Fores LLC has asked a Pennsylvania state judge to force fellow law firm MoreMarrone LLC to fork over a share of a $5 million settlement reached in a wage-and-hour class action Greenblatt Pierce helped pursue against DuPont before ultimately withdrawing from the case two years ago.  Greenblatt Pierce said in a complaint filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas that MoreMarrone and its founder, Thomas Marrone, had provided no assurances that the firm would get its portion of the expected $1.75 million worth of fees included in the Fair Labor Standards Act settlement with E.I. DuPont De Nemours Inc.

"[Greenblatt Pierce] is entitled to its share of the attorneys' fee award for its work in prosecuting the DuPont case which ultimately resulted in the settlement of this case, and reimbursement of costs it incurred," the complaint said.  According to the complaint, Greenblatt Pierce was approached in August 2012 about representing a would-be class of DuPont workers in a wage-and-hour case against the company in federal court.

After taking the case, Greenblatt Pierce attorney Patricia Pierce reached out to Marrone, who was then a partner at Caroselli Beachler McTiernan & Conboy LLC, to bring him aboard as co-counsel, the complaint said.  Marrone and Greenblatt Pierce subsequently agreed to split the 40% contingency fee their engagement agreement with the clients promised.

Marrone went on to leave Caroselli Beachler for Greenblatt Pierce in September 2013, but the complaint said that he was ultimately terminated by the firm a little over two years later as a result of what the lawsuit described as "differences between the parties."  After departing Greenblatt Pierce, Marrone formed MoreMarrone LLC.

In the meantime, Greenblatt Pierce continued to perform "significant work" on the case against DuPont, but the firm ultimately withdrew from the litigation in August 2018 due to the deterioration of its relationship with Marrone, the complaint said.  The case finally ended in a $5 million settlement in April as part of a deal that is expected to include $1.75 million for attorney fees.

But despite Greenblatt Pierce's arrangement with Marrone, the firm said it was never informed of the settlement and that it expected Marrone would fail to fork over its fair share of the fees.  As a result, Greenblatt Pierce asked for an injunction to bar Marrone from disbursing any portion of the fee award once it's received.  Greenblatt Pierce had previously tried to intervene in the DuPont case to stake a claim on its portion of the fee award, but a judge shot down that effort last week.