A local attorney who allegedly conducted a “weekend raid” of his firm’s clients and their information has been sued in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.
The law firm of Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal (HN&B) charge that Jack R. Hilgeman sent an email of resignation at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, May 5.
“During the ensuing hours, Hilgeman secretly conducted a ‘weekend raid’ of information contained in the firm’s confidential files, copying the firm’s confidential data onto his own devices,” the complaint alleges.
“Hilgeman then hurriedly and without notice to or consent of the firm, used the firm’s confidential information to contact the firm’s clients for the purpose of inducing them to leave the firm and retain Hilgeman.”
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Hilgeman allegedly convinced his paralegal — who also had knowledge of the filing system with client information — to join him in at Cowan & Hilgeman.
HN&B characterized that firm’s name as fictitious because they claim there is no business by that name listed by the Ohio Secretary of State.
“I see this as a story of greed and deception and how an attorney used the Code of Professional Conduct to facilitate wrongdoing,” said attorney Craig Matthews, who is representing HN&B. “My client is a long-established, highly reputable firm. Their primary focus was protecting the legal interests of their clients. That is their professional duty.
“Knowing they would honor that duty and not do anything to disrupt their clients’ cases, the defendant was able to raid the firm after hours.”
The court filing also includes a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Hilgeman, who started at HN&B in May 2012.
That motion seeks to “immediately freeze all tangible and intangible property that came into his possession during the employment of Jack Hilgeman with the firm and provide a full and complete accounting of all transactions they have undertaken involving the firm’s clients since his sudden and abrupt departure.”
A woman who answered the phone Friday at Cowan & Hilgeman said she spoke to Jack Hilgeman and that, “he said he had no comment at this time.”
The complaint said Hilgeman never expressed any displeasure at work. A copy of Hilgeman’s contract included with the complaint includes language that said either side is supposed to give a 60-day notice to end to the contract.
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The firm alleges Hilgeman instead of using the software system he was supposed to, put the client information into “spreadsheets he maintained on folders which he could readily copy.”
The complaint also said that shortly after joining Cowan & Hilgeman, he “began to harvest settlement proceeds from the cases he had taken” and left HN&B in “chaos.”
Defendants include Hilgeman, Christopher Cowan, John P. Hilgeman and Cowan & Hilgeman because they allegedly “participated in the conduct above and now enjoy the ill-begotten fruits.”
The case was assigned to Judge Mary Katherine Huffman, who immediately requested to be disqualified and have an out-of-county visiting judge assigned “due to numerous conflicts with the parties involved.”
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