Blank Rome can't ditch $4.5 million in a trial in Civ Pro brainteaser's case
Hey, law nerds: Do you like complex civil procedure matters regarding alter egos, personal jurisdiction, and forfeited legal defenses? How about if we toss in some queries regarding maritime attachment and the statute of limitations under the laws of England and Alabama?
Today is your chance to spend the day chasing for a Civ Pro brainteaser: I bring you the extremely complex tale of a $4.5 million legal malpractice case against Blank Rome.
Blank Rome's one-time clients Sonic Finance Inc and Pasha Finance Inc can proceed with claims that they ended up on the wrong side of a $4.5 million judgment in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen said Blank Rome's one-time clients Sonic Finance Inc and Pasha Finance Inc could proceed with claims that they ended up on the wrong side of a $4.5 million judgment in federal court in Manhattan because Blank Rome failed to assert a personal jurisdiction defense based on the U.S. Supreme Courts 14 in. On Wednesday,
Blank Rome, represented by Akerman, may yet be able to demonstrate that personal jurisdiction in the federal court case is a red herring, Cohen said at this point of the malpractice case, "The causal chain as alleged by [Sonic and Pasha], while admittedly circuitous, is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss."
Neither a Blank Rome spokeswoman nor Akerman lawyers representing the firm responded to email queries on Cohen's decision. Sonic counsel Matthew DeOreo of Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo did not respond to a request for comment.
The tale begins in the dim halt of 2008, when a firm called Primera Maritime (Hellas) Limited defaulted on a derivative contract involving shipping freight fees. Primeras counterparty, d'Amico Dry Limited, immediately received an unappealable $1.8 million judgment from the English High Court of Justice in London. However, Primera refused to pay up, so d'Amico filed an action in Manhattan federal court to recognize and enforce the British judgment. Sonic and Pasha
Primera (which was not represented by Black Rome) and its alter egos battled d'Amico over New York's subject matter jurisdiction for the next nine years. When the trial court tossed the suit in 2011 because the British court was not sitting as an admiralty court when it entered the judgment. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case.
Primera and the alter egos resigned d'Amico's claim on subject matter jurisdictional grounds, this time arguing that the derivative contract was not a maritime contract, this time arguing that the trial judge held a bench trial and eventually agreed. In 2018, the 2nd Circuit reversed the dismissal and reinstated d'Amico's case.
While all of this was going on, the Supreme Court in its Daimler ruling significantly reduced the test for personal jurisdiction over corporate citizens. In the context of the battle over subject matter jurisdiction, Sonic urged Blank Rome in May and October of 2015 to dismiss the d'Amico suit based on lack of personal jurisdiction.
Blank Rome went off, according to Sonic, according to Sonic, according to the firm, saying in 2015 that it was well aware of Daimler, but that transferring to dismiss would be a waste of time and money. Blank Rome sat on its hands in its statement.
Blank Rome claims it had maintained the personal jurisdiction issue in the 2015 answer to d'Amico's complaint that the firm filed for Sonic and other alter egos. In its malpractice suit, the law firm insisted that it left the personal jurisdiction issue simmering while the trial and appellate courts spat on subject matter jurisdiction. When that question was finally resolved in d'Amico's favor in 2018, d'Amico's defense was revived and District Judge John Koeltl of Manhattan called to dismiss d
By then it was too late. Koeltl said in 2018 that New York did not have personal control over Sonic and the other alter egos but that they had forfeited the defense by waiting three years to dismiss the case on those grounds. Koeltl directed a judgment for d'Amico of the total amount of the British judgment, plus interest and attorneys' fees.
However, the New York case wasn't d'Amico's only play to enforce the sentence; it also took an attachment action in Alabama against a ship owned by yet another Primera-related firm, claiming almost $3.8 million in 2018, in a 2018 appeal.
Sonic, Pasha, and the other Primera defendants ultimately settled a $4.45 million settlement to resolve all of d'Amico's claims.
In their next malpractice lawsuit, Sonic and Pasha claimed that they would have been off the hook completely if Blank Rome had simply moved to dismiss d'Amico's New York case on personal jurisdiction grounds in 2015, because that case would have been untimely under British and Alabama law if it hadn't been for the pending New York suit.
Blank Rome countered that Primera botched the personal jurisdiction defense by failing to raise it at all. Blank Rome's dismissal motion also stated that the British judgment could have been enforced without a finding that New York had personal jurisdiction over alter egos, thus the forfeiture of that defense wasn't the proximate cause of the judgment against Sonic and Pasha. Moreover, Blank Rome argued that the Alabama attachment would have gone forward regardless of New York's personal jurisdiction, based on d'Amico
Blank Rome may still be caught up in the malpractice case, according to the judge. The firm may possibly be certain that New York would have recognized Primera's legal order, forcing the alter egos to settle, regardless of the forfeited personal jurisdiction defense.
But it's not the end of the day for Blank Rome.
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