Kelly Holleran Feb. 26, 2013, 7:23am



A law firm based in Fort Worth, Texas, and two more Belleville-based law firms have hit a speed bump in two potentially lucrative lawsuits they filed on behalf of 200 Illinois residents against GlaxoSmithKline when another attorney also representing the plaintiffs knocked them from one of the cases.

Steven M. Johnson, doing business as Texas-based The Johnson Law Firm, The Jones Law Firm of Belleville and its attorney Robert G. Jones, The Law Office of David R. Jones of Belleville and its attorney David R. Jones filed a lawsuit Jan. 22 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman of Los Angeles and its attorneys Michael Lyn Baum, Paul Hedlund and Cynthia L. Garber; attorney George Rosmond of Houston and GlaxoSmithKline.

The plaintiffs claim they and the defendants filed a complaint in St. Clair County Circuit Court in 2009 against GlaxoSmithKline, which had manufactured Avandia. In the 2009 complaint, the plaintiffs had accused GlaxoSmithKline and McKesson Corporation of selling Avandia, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus, despite knowledge of health risks associated with the medication. The lawsuit included a plaintiff named David A. Troupe.

The case is known as Gabel et. al v. GlaxoSmithKline (09-L-621).

In filing the lawsuit, Johnson and Jones had relied on the Baum law firm’s representations that it possessed expertise to handle the complaint. Baum Hedland promised that it could assist with the preparation of the lawsuit and its subsequent trial, according to the current complaint. In exchange for its help, Baum Hedland orally agreed to take 70 percent of the total attorney’s fees Johnson received from Troupe’s claim and 10 percent of any other attorney’s fees Johnson earned, the suit states.

In his agreement with his clients, Johnson would receive 40 percent of any money they recovered from the complaint.

Eventually, Troupe separated from the group of plaintiffs and filed his own complaint against GlaxoSmithKline. On Dec. 20, Troupe provided Johnson with a written notice that informed Johnson he was being terminated as legal representative in the case, the complaint says. Troupe and his attorneys, Baum Hedland, then filed an emergency motion to reset the trial date. In the motion, they requested the court lift the stay of proceedings and proceed with the trial based only on Troupe’s claims.

“This ‘Emergency Motion’ therefore has no practical effect but to disrupt and interfere with the settlement of other Gabel plaintiffs’ claims,” the suit states.

The move would affect Johnson’s and Jones’s ability to obtain monetary relief for the remaining clients they are continuing to represent, they claim.

In turn, Johnson and Jones participated in a mediation conference with attorneys from Baum Hedland on Jan. 18. However, the parties could not resolve their conflict, according to the complaint.

Johnson and Jones contend that Baum Hedland attorneys duped them into believing that they would help with the case. In actuality, the law firm wanted access to the case so it could represent Troupe, the suit states.

If Johnson and Jones do obtain money for the Gabel plaintiffs, they fear that Baum Hedland attorneys will want a portion of the fees. However, they claim that the law firm is not entitled to the originally agreed-upon fees because there is no written contract governing the agreement.

Johnson and Jones allege breach of contract against the defendants, saying they failed to cooperate in good faith with the plaintiffs and failed to perform their obligations under the agreement.

They also say the defendants breached their fiduciary duty by failing to perform their fair share of the work load, by failing to share the financial burden of the litigation, by behaving in a manner that is antithetical to the purpose of joint representation and by fraudulently concealing their true purpose in joint representation.

Johnson and Jones want the court to determine the rights of the parties in the current lawsuit, to determine that the law firms do not have an enforceable agreement in regards to the Gabel lawsuit, to issue a temporary restraining order and eventually a permanent injunction that would prohibit the defendants from interfering in Johnson’s and Jones’s relationship with the Gabel plaintiffs and to order the defendants to pay the plaintiffs costs in the current complaint.

They also seek a judgment of more than $150,000, plus other relief the court deems just.

Michael J. Nester and Sean K. Cronin of Donovan, Rose, Nester in Belleville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-43.

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