Washington-based law firm Gilbert is suing a former client for more than $6 million in legal fees and expenses in connection with a $26 million jury award.
Gilbert's former client was Tire Engineering & Distribution LLC. The company, which does business as Alpha Tyre Systems and Alpha Mining Systems, develops special tires for underground mining. After Alpha won a $26 million judgment in a trade secrets case, Gilbert claimed the company refused to pay millions of dollars after switching lawyers—to former Gilbert partners who started their own practice.
The firm sued Alpha and its new lawyers at Weisbrod Matteis & Copley on Nov. 13 in District of Columbia Superior Court.
According to the complaint, Alpha hired Gilbert in 2009 to pursue a lawsuit for misappropriation and theft of trade secrets and other property. Gilbert agreed to represent Alpha on a contingency basis, meaning Alpha would repay the firm for its litigation costs and share a percentage of any money it won.
When Alpha hired Gilbert, it was represented by two firm partners, August Matteis Jr. and Stephen Weisbrod, and another firm attorney, William Copley, who later became a partner. In July 2010, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia awarded Alpha $26 million.
Gilbert said that in November 2011, Matteis, Weisbrod and Copley left the firm to start their own shop, known as Weisbrod Matteis & Copley. The attorneys took Alpha as a client. At the time, Alpha had yet to collect the $26 million judgment.
No longer counsel for Alpha, Gilbert claims the company wrongfully refused to pay fees and costs it owed for the firm's work. The firm claims it spent $1.8 million on expenses and $4.5 million in attorney time, but was never been paid for any of it.
Gilbert is being represented by Latham & Watkins partner Allen Gardner, who declined to comment.
Alpha President Jordan Fishman referred questions about the case to Matteis. Matteis declined to respond directly to Gilbert's allegations, saying the fee dispute "should be resolved by the courts."
"We will respond in the court and wait for a determination," Matteis said.
The case is before Judge Brian Holeman. A scheduling conference is set for Feb. 14.