LOS ANGELES, June 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Michael N. Misa, Martin W. Stefan, Matthew S. Koller, Teresa E. Ward, and their new law firm, Misa Stefen Koller and Ward LLP ("MSKW") struck back against allegations by their former firm Adelson Testan Brundo Novell & Jimenez ("ATB") related to their departure from that firm, asking the court to throw out all claims.
Misa, Stefen, Koller, Ward, and their new firm are represented by Daniel J. O'Rielly and Dena M. Roche of O'Rielly & Roche LLP in Los Angeles.
According to a demurrer and motion to strike filed on June 13, 2016 by MSKW they left ATB "because the firm's toxic work environment was no longer tolerable." MSKW asserts that the lawsuit is ATB's "attempt to cripple the new business venture of their former colleagues, and to bully their own current employees and clients who might also be considering leaving that firm, as many undoubtedly are." The demurrer asserts that ATB is "clearly frustrated that a small group of highly productive and talented attorneys have started their own firm in search of a better work life" and that ATB "fears fair competition with their former colleagues in the marketplace." According to the demurrer, the lawsuit is an attempt "to circumvent the prohibition on covenants not to compete, the public policy in favor of attorney mobility, and the rights of ATB's own clients" to the counsel of their choice.
MSKW asserts that they departed their former firm "in full compliance with all legal and ethical requirements and standards, and with the utmost care for their clients' interests." The demurrer asks the Court to throw out each cause of action as defective:
- "The breach of written contract cause of action is defective because none of the departing attorneys had any written contract with ATB. This is indisputably apparent on the face of the Complaint.
- The trade secrets cause of action is defective because it does not actually allege any specific relevant conduct that could constitute the misappropriation of any alleged trade secret.
- The breach of fiduciary duty cause of action is defective because it is preempted by California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("UTSA"), California Civil Code sections 3426 et seq. Even if it were not preempted by the UTSA, it would fail because, as evidenced by the attachments to the Complaint, Misa, Stefen, Koller, and Ward were not "partners" in any sense other than nominal title. They were at-will employees of ATB and did not owe a fiduciary duty. It also fails because it does not allege specific relevant conduct that could constitute a breach of duty.
- The unfair competition cause of action is defective because it is preempted by the UTSA. Alternatively, it fails because it does not, and cannot, adequately allege unlawful or unfair practices.
- The tortious interference causes of action are defective because each is preempted by the UTSA. Alternatively, each fails because it fails to allege any actions that could constitute conduct interfering with an alleged protected relationship."
In a separate motion to strike, MSKW asks the court to throw out the punitive damages claims as defective because the "conduct alleged in ATB's Complaint comes nowhere near" what is required to plead punitive damages.
The case is Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez v. Misa Stefen Koller Ward LLP, et al,
(No. 30201600850385CUBTCJC), Superior Court of California, County of Orange.
SOURCE O’Rielly & Roche LLP