Updated at 3:01 p.m.
A Washington federal magistrate judge dismissed one of two pending lawsuits between local plaintiffs' attorneys fighting over fees.
At issue is a cut of a $4 million jury verdict awarded in 2007 to Dominic Novak. Novak successfully sued the owners of a Washington nightclub after he was brutally beaten outside the venue in March 1998, claiming they were responsible for the lack of security.
Veteran plaintiffs' attorney Patrick Regan, of Washington's Regan, Zambri & Long, handled the bulk of Novak's case. In Aug. 2010, however, Richmond, Va.-based solo practitioner Douglas Lines sued Regan in the Circuit Court of the County of Chesterfield, Va., claiming he was never paid for work he did early on in the case.
Regan and Novak then sued Lines in Washington federal court last March. They argued Lines breached his professional responsibilities to Novak, and claimed that because Lines failed to do any meaningful work on the case, he wasn’t entitled to anything. Regan put $69,000 in escrow in light of Lines’ request, which will go to Novak if Lines loses his lawsuit in virginia.
In an opinion (PDF) issued today, U.S. District Magistrate Judge John Facciola dismissed Regan and Novak’s lawsuit against Lines. Facciola found that both Regan and Novak lacked standing to bring the lawsuit, albeit for different reasons.
Regan, who is representing himself and Novak in the Washington case, said in a phone interview this afternoon that he plans to file an amended complaint that better explains his case. "The thing I take from this is I obviously did a poor job explaining the facts and the law," Regan said.
Lines and his attorney, W.R. Baldwin of Richmond’s Marchant, Thorsen, Honey, Baldwin & Meyer, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In Novak’s case, Facciola found that he lacked standing because Lines did not sue him personally in the Virginia case. As a result, Facciola wrote that Novak “cannot possibly have been harmed nor will be harmed by anything Lines has [done] or failed to do or by the resolution of the Virginia action.”
Facciola wrote that Regan lacked standing because any success on Lines’ part in the Virginia case wouldn’t directly harm Regan. Novak, not Regan, would lose access to the money in escrow, he wrote.
“Reduced to its essentials, this is therefore an action by attorney who put some of his client’s funds in escrow under circumstances where it is impossible for the attorney to lose a penny of that escrow,” Facciola wrote.