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Ex-Client and Former Partners Sued for $6 Million in Fees and Expenses

Gilbert LLP, a Washington-based law firm, is suing its former client, Tire Engineering & Distribution LLC, for “more than $6 million in legal fees and expenses,” stemming from a $26 million jury award.

Tire Engineering & Distribution LLC does business with Alpha Tyre Systems and Alpha Mining Systems. It builds special tires used for underground mining. Gilbert claims that after it helped Alpha win the $26 million judgment in a trade secret case, Alpha refused to pay Gilbert and instead switched lawyers– “to former Gilbert partners who started their own practice.”

Alpha hired Gilbert in 2009 to commence a lawsuit for “misappropriation and theft of trade secrets and other property.” The parties decided Alpha would be represented on a contingency basis, so Alpha would “repay the firm for its litigation costs and share a percentage of any money it won.”

Gilbert claims that Alpha was represented by two of the firm’s partners, August Matteis Jr. and Stephen Weisbrod, and another firm attorney, William Copley. Copley would eventually become a partner at Gilbert. A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia awarded Alpha $26 million in July 2010.

According to Gilbert, in November 2011, Matteis, Weisbrod and Copley left the firm to go into practice on their own. They called the firm Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley. These attorneys took Alpha as a client when they left Gilbert. Alpha had not collected on the jury award when it left Gilbert for Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley.

Gilbert now claims Alpha “wrongfully refused to pay fees and costs it owed for the firm’s work.” Gilbert said it “spent $1.8 million on expenses and $4.5 million in attorney time, but was never paid for any of it.” Matteis said, “The fee dispute should be resolved by the courts.”

The case is to be heard by Judge Brian Holeman, with a scheduling conference set for February 14, 2014.

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