Law firm’s lawsuit against attorney on hold until fee dispute settled

The lawsuit involving an attorney who allegedly conducted a “weekend raid” of his firm’s clients and who counterclaimed for defamation will be on hold until the fee dispute portion is resolved by the Dayton Bar Association.

Attorneys for Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal (HN&B) and for Jack R. Hilgeman agreed to that plan prior to a Thursday hearing in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court which was to address a temporary restraining order.

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Visiting Judge Timothy Hogan gave the attorneys until Aug. 14 to draft an agreed docket entry to stay the lawsuit.

HN&B’s attorney, Craig Matthews, told Hogan that current and future fees deposited into Hilgeman’s trust account will be turned over to John Ruffolo, counsel for the Dayton Bar Association, which will decide on a formula how to split up the fees between the firms.

The proposed agreement would allow a computer forensic expert to have access to all electronic devices to create a “mirror image” of the information at the heart of the lawsuit. That also would be held by Ruffolo, according to Matthews.

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Hilgeman’s attorney, Richard Boucher, told Hogan that the defendants would identify the devices used by Hilgeman and his personal secretary.

Matthews said he thinks “massive information” was acquired before Hilgeman’s departure from HN&B to Cowan & Hilgeman.

Boucher said the information will not be reviewed by the computer forensic expert nor any of the attorneys involved.

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In its lawsuit, HN&B charged that Hilgeman sent an email of resignation at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, May 5 and that he copied that firm’s confidential data onto his own devices.

“Hilgeman … 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,” the lawsuit claimed.

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In his answer, Hilgeman said HN&B made false statements that were published across various print and social media, including publication in the Dayton Daily News, Facebook, WHIO and other social media accounts.

“Plaintiff’s false statements about Defendants were defamatory and intended to injure Defendants in their trade or occupation and cause them special harm,” Boucher wrote.

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