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Hirsch v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 26, 2014

ROBERT HIRSCH and ROCCO J. DeLEONARDIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROBERT JOHNSON and ADAM ROMNEY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Adam Romney's ("Romney") Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue ("Motion"). [Dkt. 3.] The Court will grant Romney's Motion to Dismiss for the reasons stated below.

I. Background

This case arises out of a dispute about how to distribute settlement funds arising from a case in the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County captioned Wanchuk, et al. v. PCM Ventures I, LLC, et al., No. CV2007-009523.

A. Factual Background

On November 20, 2011, Defendant Robert Johnson ("Johnson"), acting individually and on behalf of Tightlines International ("Tightlines") executed an assignment of claims, defenses and interests in an action captioned Wanchuk, et al. v. PCM Ventures, I, LLC et al., Dkt. CV2007-0096523 (" Wanchuk litigation") to Rocco DeLeonardis ("DeLeonardis") and Robert Hirsch ("Hirsch"). (Compl. ¶ 8.)

Plaintiffs allege that the assignment was made in consideration of Plaintiffs' agreement to provide Johnson and Tightlines with "cash, assistance, Arizona legal counsel, payment of legal expenses, fees and costs" to pursue Johnson's and Tightlines' claims against Phoenix Capital Management, P.C.M. Ventures I, LLC ("PCM"), and defend against PCM's counterclaims. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Under the assignment, any proceeds of recovery, whether by trial, mediation, arbitration, or negotiation would be split on a 65-35% basis. (Compl. ¶ 12.) The 65% share was to go to Plaintiffs in this action - Hirsch and DeLeonardis - and the 35% share was to go to Johnson and Tightlines. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiffs allege that on or about December 6, 2012, DeLeonardis and Romney signed a retainer agreement whereby Romney would act as attorney for DeLeonardis and Hirsch, in their capacities as assignees and interested parties in the Wanchuk litigation. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs allege that on or about May 13, 2013, Johnson, his wife Pantipa Kitticachorn ("Kitticachorn"), and Tightlines retained Romney to defend them in a separate suit filed against them in the Superior Court of Maricopa County captioned Janitell v. Robert Johnson, et al., CV-053875. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 48.) Plaintiffs aver that Romney colluded with Johnson and Kitticachorn "to defraud plaintiffs of their 65% interest in the Wanchuk litigation, while Romney was still acting as Plaintiffs' counsel in the Wanchuk litigation." (Compl. ¶ 16.)

Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the Wanchuk litigation was settled in October - and on October 24, 2013 all interested parties executed a Settlement Agreement. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Defendants in the Wanchuk matter wired $200, 000 in settlement proceeds to Romney's escrow account at TruWest Credit Union. (Compl. ¶ 20.) The $200, 000 arrived in Romney's account on November 1, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 20; Ex. 5.) Plaintiffs allege that since the settlement proceeds arrived to his account on November 1, 2013, Romney has refused to disburse the $130, 000 allegedly owing to Hirsch and DeLeonardis. (Compl. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs allege that Romney "cites his preference for the approval of Johnson and Kitticachorn before disbursing funds" despite the requirements of the assignment and retainer agreements. (Compl. ¶ 22.)

Plaintiffs assert four claims against Johnson: (1) breach of contract (Compl. ¶¶ 24-30); (2) repudiation of contract (Compl. ¶¶ 31-34); (3) tortious interference with retainer agreement (Compl. ¶¶ 35-39); (4) fraud (Compl. ¶¶ 40-45); and five claims against Romney: (1) breach of December 6, 2012 retainer agreement (Compl. ¶¶ 46-57); (2) conversion and misappropriation (Compl. ¶¶ 58-61); (3) breach of fiduciary duty (Compl. ¶¶ 62-65); (4) legal malpractice (Compl. ¶¶ 66-76); (5) punitive damages (Compl. ¶¶ 76-78).

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs filed their verified complaint against Johnson and Romney on March 31, 2014. [Dkt. 1.] On April 30, 2014, Romney filed his Motion to Dismiss and accompanying memorandum. [Dkts. 3-4.] On June 16, 2014, Romney filed a Notice of No Response by Plaintiff to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. [Dkts. 11-12.] On June 16, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their opposition. [Dkts. 13-14.] The opposition states that at the hearing on June 19, 2014, Plaintiffs intend to move for leave to amend pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(B). The opposition also requests the Court enter a default judgment against defendant Johnson. On June 19, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental exhibit to their affidavit in opposition. [Dkt. 15.]

Defendant's Motion is before ...


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