Edwardsville attorney sues former partner over stopped property sale; Also seeks to keep fees out of controversy

By Ann Maher | Jun 10, 2014


Edwardsville attorney Keith Short is suing his former law partner Kevin Hazlett claiming he “unilaterally” stopped the sale of property they jointly own in Shiloh and has made a claim on legal fees to which he is not entitled.

According to the complaint filed May 28 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Hazlett was allegedly engaged in private negotiations to sell property they own at 1167 Fortune Blvd. in Shiloh.

Short claims that despite his request for information regarding the terms of negotiations, Hazlett refused to provide information except that the sale would provide them profits.

On April 22, the suit claims that Hazlett informed Short’s attorney that he was “unilaterally” terminating the company’s sale of the property.

Short claims that as a result of Hazlett’s alleged breach of fiduciary duties, he has suffered damages in the lost sale proceeds and other profits that would have been realized by selling the property, as well as damages in the continued mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and other costs and expenses that will continue to be incurred in the company owning the property.

“Defendant unilaterally terminating the Company’s sale of the Property was a willful and wanton breach of Defendant’s fiduciary duties owed to Plaintiff and was motivated by Defendant’s resentment and spite toward Plaintiff arising from disagreement over unrelated business dealing between Plaintiff and Defendant,” the complaint states.

The firm Hazlett Short was incorporated in December 2008 and dissolved in May 2011. The two stopped practicing law together in January 2011, the suit says.

Short is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, including lost profits and continued expenses and punitive damages.

He also seeks declaratory judgment that Hazlett has no right or claim to legal fees earned in cases that continued with Short following separation from the firm. Short claims that all such legal fees belong to him free of any right, lien or any other claim by Hazlett.

“During the existence of the Firm, except for certain shared Firm administrative expenses, Plaintiff and Defendant each maintained and operated their own separate practice areas, separate cases, separate clients, and separate legal fees from their cases,” the suit states.

“During the existence of the Firm, legal fees earned on Plaintiff’s cases were distributed to Plaintiff and legal fees earned on Defendant’s cases were distributed to Defendant."

The suit says that Hazlett never made a claim or demand for any legal fees arising from cases that continued with Short following his separation from the firm until recently.

“Defendant has now put Plaintiff’s legal fees in controversy by making a claim and demand on Plaintiff for a share of the legal fees earned by Plaintiff in cases that continued with Plaintiff following separation from the Firm,” the suit says.

Short claims Hazlett is not entitled to any legal fees.

He is represented by Mark Goldenberg of Edwardsville and Thomas Q. Keefe, Jr. of Belleville.

St. Clair County case number 14-L-351.

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