An appellate court panel has unanimously voted to reverse the ruling of a lower court that had dismissed Weiser LLP's lawsuit against three former partners the firm accused of violating their partnership agreement by leaving and taking major clients with them.
Weiser filed the suit against former partners Jeffrey Coopersmith, Michael Simon and William Vogel after they left Weiser in April 2005 to form their own firm, Coopersmith, Simon & Vogel, of Uniondale, N.Y. They had formerly been partners in Lopez, Edwards, Frank & Co., which merged with Weiser in 1999.
Weiser contended that the former partners violated the partnership agreement and legal duties they owed by leaving Weiser with a substantial group of clients to open their own new firm without paying Weiser the previously agreed-upon amount for doing so.
The May 29, 2008 Appellate Division decision said: "The evidence showed . . . that the [agreement to pay for the clients] is enforceable because [it is] not more extensive than reasonably necessary to protect Weiser's legitimate interest in enjoying the assets and goodwill it had acquired pursuant to the merger [with the ex-partners former firm]."
The trial will once again go forward in the original trial court, unless there is a settlement. Weiser general counsel Scott Univer said there are currently no settlement talks. Weiser is asking for damages of $2,784,000 for taking away the client accounts, and unpaid receivables and interest in excess of $500,000. Univer expects the trial to resume in the next several months, depending on when the trial judge has time on his calendar.
David Wawro, an attorney with Torys LLP who represents the defendants, has not yet presented his case to the judge. "The dismissal was at the close of the plaintiff Weiser's case, so Coopersmith, Simon & Vogel never even had to present a defense," he said. "That was taken up on appeal and the appellate court held that there was a case for them to defend against and remanded it to the trial court." He has not yet been notified of a date for the new trial.
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