BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) – Joseph Saveri and his Joseph Saveri Law Firm Inc. will not be required to pay a 12.5 percent, $1.2 million referral fee to Michael E. Criden PA in connection with the firms’ work on titanium dioxide antitrust litigation, according to an opinion entered Sept. 7 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
According to the opinion, Michael E. Criden, which does business as Criden & Love PA, was awarded more than $1 million in attorneys fees and costs in payment for its role in the antitrust litigation.
“Criden & Love has collected an additional $1.7 million in referral fees paid by the law firms of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein LLP and Berger & Montague PC, two other firms which served as co-lead class counsel in the TiO2 litigation,” the ruling said.
However, Joseph Saveri Law Firm took issue with Criden & Love’s claim that the Saveri firm owes it an additional referral fee because it referred plaintiff Isaac Industries Inc. to Joseph Saveri’s former firm, Lieff Cabraser.
The Maryland court said Joseph Saveri Law Firm also won a “nearly identical action” filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Michael E. Criden PA, but the California district court’s ruling was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which said the district court did not have jurisdiction over the parties.
In the opinion, the Maryland district court said the Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct states that “a division of a fee between attorneys who are not in the same firm may be made only if: (1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each attorney or each attorney assumes joint responsibility for the representation; (2) the client agrees to the joint representation and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and (3) the total fee is reasonable.”
“The flat 12.5 percent referral fee sought by Criden & Love on its face violates the proportionality requirement of § 19-301.5(1),” the Maryland court said in its opinion.
In addition, the court said Breen Color Concentrates, another plaintiff Saveri was representing in the antitrust litigation, did not consent to payment of the referral fee, even if Isaac Industries did consent.