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Tennessee attorney seeks fees from Akin Gump from Food Lion case; He says he was ripped off while recovering from heart transplant

By Chandra Lye | Mar 8, 2019

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) – A Tennessee attorney has filed a complaint against Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Field law firm and two others over allegations he is owed attorneys' fees from a settlement.

Gordon Ball filed his lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville on Feb. 28, alleging Akin Gump, the estate of Richard Leslie Wyatt Jr. and Laurence R. Macon owe him from a settlement reached in the Food Lion LLC et al. v Dean Food Co., et al. case. 

The class action litigation was started by Ball in 2007, he says. He contacted Wyatt, a partner with Akin Gump, and reached a verbal agreement that he would be permitted to be co-counsel in the case, the suit states. The suit states Ball charged between $800 to $975 an hour during the litigation and timekeepers at his law office charged $135 to $300 an hour.

“Their agreement allowed Wyatt and other Akin Gump attorneys to join Ball as co-counsel for (Fidel) Breto, with Akin Gump advancing litigation expenses and Ball and Akin Gump sharing equally any attorney’s fees that might be recovered in the action,” Ball stated in his filing. 

Ball claims that in 2017, Wyatt, Macon and the law firm “shut Ball out of settlement discussions involving Food Lion’s claims, separately settled Food Lion’s claims against three defendants and devised a scheme by which Wyatt, Macon and Akin Gump would refuse to pay Ball any portion of the millions of dollars in attorney’s fees they recovered in those settlements."

Ball stated in his filing that he noted Wyatt was “not living up to the bargain he made” with him. One such incident cited was a text message Wyatt allegedly sent Ball in 2014. 

“Wyatt informed Ball that he had met with the management committee of his new law firm, Hunton & Williams, and, apparently referring to any attorney’s fees award, stated that ‘they may want it all for the firm.’ Wyatt would not elaborate on what he meant by that message,” Ball wrote in his court filing. 

In addition, in November 2016, Wyatt allegedly began putting on documents that he and other Hunton & Williams attorneys were the representatives for Food Lion and Ball was listed as the representative for his client, Fidel Breto.

“Neither the history of the litigation nor the filings made on behalf of Food Lion and Breto throughout over nine years of litigation implied or otherwise indicated that Wyatt and Hunton & Williams or Macon and Akin Gump represented Food Lion only or that Ball represented Breto only, or, for that matter, that Ball’s court-appointed roles as Liaison and Co-Lead Counsel for both Breto and Food Lion had somehow been altered or modified,” Ball stated in his court filing. 

He also alleged this began happening just three weeks after he had heart transplant surgery and was convalescing.

“Evidence abounds in the public court record that Ball – along with Wyatt, Akin Gump and Macon – represented Food Lion throughout the litigation,” he noted in his court filing. 

Food Lion settled its claims for a total of $19.9 million against Dairy Farmers of American and National Dairy Holdings while Food Lion settled its claims against Dean Foods for an undisclosed amount, the suit states.

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