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Law Firm Sues Pharmacy Over $600K in Unpaid Fees

December 29, 2020 | Posted in : Attorney-Client Relationship, Fee Agreement, Fee Collection, Fee Dispute, Fee Dispute Litigation / ADR, Hourly Rates, Unpaid Fees

A recent Law.com story by Lizzy McLellan, “Winston & Strawn Sues Pharmacy Chain Over $600K in Unpaid Fees,” reports that in another instance of a large, profitable firm suing a client over fees, Winston & Strawn recently brought a case against Tampa, Florida-based Benzer Pharmacy Holding, seeking more than $600,000 in unpaid legal fees and late payment fees.  Winston & Strawn filed its complaint against the client in November, in the Superior Court of Washington, D.C.  On Dec. 23, the firm filed a motion seeking an order of default against Benzer, a privately owned chain of pharmacy stores.

According to the complaint, Benzer originally hired a different law firm in D.C. to represent it, in March 2019.  But when the lawyer representing Benzer joined Winston & Strawn in July of that year, the company signed an engagement letter with the Am Law 50 firm.  The engagement letter, attached to the complaint as an exhibit, listed hourly rates of $745 to $1,650 for partners; $685 to $1,185 for of counsel; $540 to $860 for associates; $195 to $390 for paralegals and legal assistants; and $155 to $600 for practice support personnel.

According to the complaint, Benzer has not paid the firm since Aug. 12. Later that month, the company told the firm it would be transferring its case to another lawyer, and the firm transferred the files in September.  “Winston repeatedly asked Benzer to comply with its payment obligations and attempted to work with Benzer on its outstanding balance,” the complaint said.  The firm is seeking $608,960.99 from its ex-client.

Benzer has not filed any answer to the complaint, and no lawyer has entered an appearance on the company’s behalf.  Winston & Strawn is not the only vendor suing Benzer. McKesson Corp. has sued the company in federal court, alleging that it owes McKesson more than $7 million.  In that case, Benzer has filed an answer and counterclaims related to the supplier agreement with McKesson.

Another example of a large firm suing a client over fees came in October, when U.K. firm Allen & Overy issued a summons against digital currency platform Noble Talents and its former CEO John Betts, alleging that the company failed to pay invoices for services rendered totaling $938,235.  Betts denied the claims, which were filed in New York state court.

Over the summer, Pittsburgh-based Am Law 200 firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott sued a former client over nearly $1.5 million in legal fees.  The client, Nexus Services Inc. and Libre by Nexus Inc., which provides bail securitization services, had filed its own suit against Eckert Seamans earlier this summer, alleging that the firm breached its contract with the client by doing significantly more document review than necessary.