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Former Miles & Stockbridge principal seeks $776k in attorneys’ fees from firm

Donald E. English Jr.

Donald E. English Jr.

Less than three months after a jury awarded him more than $200,000 from his former firm, Donald E. English Jr. is now seeking almost four times that amount in attorneys’ fees from Miles & Stockbridge PC.

English alleges Baltimore-based Miles & Stockbridge used a “scorched earth” defense strategy and refused to entertain numerous settlement offers, causing English to rack up such exorbitant fees, according to a motion seeking nearly $776,000 in attorneys’ fees filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Now a non-equity partner at Jackson Lewis PC in Baltimore, English resigned from Miles & Stockbridge in July 2017 after 13 years with the firm, the last four as equity principal. English claimed after he resigned, Miles & Stockbridge reduced his salary and “clawed back” nearly $60,000 the firm had paid him, according to his lawsuit. The firm also refused to pay English for his work on the last three days of the job as well as his salary and benefits through the end of the month and any prorated bonuses, according to the lawsuit.

In June, a jury awarded English $231,000, including treble damages. Miles & Stockbridge filed a notice of appeal last week after a Baltimore judge denied post-trial motions filed by the firm seeking to set aside or reduce the verdict.

English is requesting his old firm pay $775,771 in legal fees and other costs for the more than 1,600 hours his two attorneys, Tonya Baña and Kenneth Ravenell, spent on the case. The litigation may have “proceeded like any other garden-variety wage dispute,” the motion states, but Miles & Stockbridge complicated the case.

“As a result of Miles & Stockbridge’s misleading and evasive discovery tactics and scorched earth litigation strategy, Mr. English was required to perform exhaustive legal research and further fact investigation outside the formal discovery process,” the filing states.

English also alleges the firm said it planned to call 17 witnesses at trial, but only five took the stand.

“In hindsight, it is obvious that Miles & Stockbridge purposefully indicated that it intended to call many witnesses whom it never had any real intention of calling at trial, which forced Mr. English’s legal team to needlessly conduct further fact investigation and prepare cross-examination outlines for witnesses that would never appear,” the filing states.

Miles & Stockbridge declined to comment on the filing or its appeal on Wednesday.

Settlement talks

English also states in the motion he incurred significant legal costs because Miles & Stockbridge “has persistently refused to engage in any settlement discussions.”

English spoke in June 2017 with Michael Brown, who was then a member of the firm’s board of directors and agreed to bring a $20,000 settlement offer to the board on English’s behalf. The board rejected the proposal, the filing states.

After retaining Baña, who also used to work at Miles & Stockbridge, the firm’s general counsel Jeffrey P. Reilly declined a settlement offer covering English’s lost wages and attorneys’ fees, a total of $76,000. Instead, the firm retained outside counsel and sent Baña a letter stating English’s claims lacked merit, the filing states.

In March, English and Baña met with Joseph Hovermill, Miles & Stockbridge’s president and CEO, and offered to settle the claims if the firm made an anonymous donation to charity for $60,000, paid his attorneys fees and costs and sent out a memo to all firm attorneys on how equity principal compensation worked. The firm did not respond to English’s proposal, the filing states.

Even after the jury verdict on June 13, English, through counsel, told Miles & Stockbridge he would take less than the jury award and $500,000 in legal fees English planned on requesting from the court. The firm also did not respond to that settlement offer, the filing states.

“In sum, Miles & Stockbridge was clearly placed on notice that Mr. English would seek his legal fees incurred in pursuing this litigation,” the filing states. “As a law firm, Miles & Stockbridge was particularly well-situated to appreciate the significant expense such litigation entails and the gamble it was taking.”

Baltimore attorney Julie C. Janofsky, who handles employment law matters, submitted an affidavit on English’s behalf that the fees requested in the filing are reasonable.

Given the “contentiousness” and complexity of the case, “the total number of hours worked and the total legal fees incurred in this matter are within the range of what would be deemed fair, reasonable, and necessary to achieve the outstanding result Mr. English obtained,” said Janofsky, of Fedder & Janofsky LLC, who was not compensated for providing the affidavit.

English contends Miles & Stockbridge must have incurred comparable legal expenses. The firm hired Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP for its defense. Two partners, Ward B. Coe III and Mark S. Saudek, and an associate at Gallagher were working on the case for Miles & Stockbridge.

The case is Donald E. English, Jr. vs Miles & Stockbridge PC, 24C17004438.

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