An Alabama law firm has accused three of its former Washington-office attorneys of stealing confidential client information from the firm and using it to establish a competing firm with poached clients, according to a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Slocumb Law Firm, which specializes in personal injury cases, filed suit on Wednesday against Zeke Roeser, Morgan Whitlock and Kevin Gracie of Roeser & Whitlock, seeking $4.5 million in damages. Founding partner Michael Slocumb also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order.
According to the complaint (PDF), Roeser, Whitlock and Gracie were employed in Slocumb’s D.C. office and privy to confidential client information. But Michael Slocumb maintains he was responsible for the creation of the attorney-client relationship. These relationships, Slocumb contends, are the result of a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign.
In 2009, William Shatner appeared in television commercials for the firm, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The firm’s website also features a picture of Shatner.
In his declaration (PDF), Slocumb wrote that nobody outside of the firm has knowledge of the client identities since the cases have not yet been filed in court. Furthermore, he claims that Roeser, Whitlock and Gracie were responsible for collecting medical records, interacting with insurance companies and collecting additional information from clients who had yet to file cases. Slocumb alleges that the confidential information is maintained by an internal case tracking software called "needles," which is access-restricted.
When the three men resigned from the firm in early October, they allegedly took the information and used it to set up a competing firm. Shortly thereafter, Slocumb said, he began to receive termination letters.
“Upon investigation of the circumstances in this case, I discovered information demonstrating that defendants began contacting my firm’s clients while still employed by my firm before they resigned and they had established their practice before they left my firm’s employment,” Slocumb wrote in his declaration.
Slocumb also attached a redacted needles report on a showing that Roeser made contact with one of the firm’s clients to meet them after business hours while still employed at the firm.
“My firm has suffered and is continuing to suffer loss of clients as a result of defendant’s use of its confidential client information,” Slocumb wrote in the declaration. “In 2010 alone, my firm invested approximately $1.5 million in its District of Columbia office. To date, approximately 32 clients have terminated my firm’s services in favor of being represented by Defendants. The recovery from these clients is estimated by me to be from $2,500 to $1,000,000 each, and there are approximately 500 additional cases to which Defendants had access.”
Slocumb, Whitlock and Gracie did not respond to requests for comment. Roeser declined to provide an immediate comment.