Less than two months after resigning from her position as an attorney for the Mallon and Hale Law Firm in Wood River, Dawna Hale seeks compensation for the substantial amount of work she claims she performed throughout her tenure at the firm.
Hale filed a lawsuit Feb. 24 in Madison County Circuit Court against Mallon and Hale, Jeanette Mallon, Keith R. Short doing business as Mallon Law Firm, Jennifer Rushton and Mark C. Goldenberg.
Hale claims she took on a majority of work for Mallon and Hale when Lance R. Mallon began missing substantial amounts of work due to an illness in 2010. Lance Mallon died on Nov. 11.
During Lance Mallon's illness, Hale brought in at least $350,000 worth of legal fees for cases she performed of the $900,000 the firm earned throughout the year, the complaint says.
Despite the significant amount of money she earned for the firm, Hale claims her work environment significantly deteriorated after Lance Mallon's death. Before his passing, Hale received an unspecified base stipend, plus at least two yearly bonuses and three weeks of vacation days, the complaint says. However, after Lance Mallon's death, Hale received no accrued vacation time for the 2011 year and no December bonus, according to the complaint.
In addition, employees of Mallon and Hale began spreading false rumors about Hale during Lance Mallon's illness and following his death, the suit states. For example, office manager Jennifer Rushton began informing clients that a deposition had been rescheduled because Lance Mallon had died. In fact, Hale planned to take on the deposition, the complaint says.
"She stated the firm did not have an attorney experienced and capable of handling his claim," the suit states. "She stated that she did not want any attorney screwing up the claim. The derogatory statement referred to Plaintiff."
On Jan. 13, 2011, Keith Short appeared at Mallon and Hale's law offices and announced himself as the firm's new owner, the suit states. He announced Hale would receive no bonuses or vacation for 2010 or 2011, the complaint says.
The same day Short took over the company, Hale claims she resigned and requested her bonuses and pay for vacation time.
"Efforts to obtain payment of the sums have been resisted," the suit states. "There is due and owing from Defendants to Plaintiff a sum in excess of $20,000, plus interest and costs."
Since Hale left the firm, she opened her own office, but employees at the Mallon Law Firm have participated in repeated deceptive business practice acts, the complaint says. For example, employees failed to tell the firm's clients that Hale is no longer a member of the firm, have sent clients letters leading them to believe Hale is still an attorney with the firm, have falsely informed clients the firm is not aware of Hale's phone number, have threatened to sue Hale unless she hands over one-third of all fees she derives from clients who were former Mallon and Hale Law Firm clients and falsely stated to other attorneys that Hale is unethical, Hale claims.
"The aforesaid conduct is likely to cause, and no doubt, has caused Plaintiff a loss of business and will continue to do so unless the court prohibits a continuation of said practices," the suit states.
In her six-count suit, Hale seeks a judgment of more than $40,000
and unspecified punitive damages, plus interest and costs. She also wants the court to order an accounting and expenses of Mallon and Hale during 2010 and to order the defendants to identify all cases on which she worked during 2010. She seeks an injunction prohibiting the defendants from damaging her reputation and unspecified damages.
Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-181.