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Lilley v. Flynn

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

May 5, 2014

DANIEL G. LILLEY LAW OFFICE, P.A and DANIEL G. LILLEY, Plaintiffs
v.
JOHN P. FLYNN, Defendant

ORDER

Hon. Roland A. Cole, Justice, Superior Court.

The Plaintiffs Daniel G. Lilley Law Office, P.A. and Daniel G. Lilley (" Lilley"), have moved for summary judgment against the Defendant, John Flynn (" Flynn") on his counterclaims. Flynn's Answer asserted seven counterclaims: Count I is for breach of contract; Count II is for fraud in the inducement; Count III is for tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage; Count IV is for breach and invasion of right to privacy; Count V is for intentional infliction of emotional distress; Count VI is for quantum meruit; and Count VII is for unjust enrichment.

Defendant John Flynn, in turn, has cross-moved for a summary judgment finding that the Original Cases section of the parties' Memorandum of Understanding is an enforceable contract between Flynn and Lilley concerning the cases Flynn brought from Troubh Heisler to Lilley's firm. Flynn wants the court to find the original cases section of the MOU to be severable and enforceable.

Broadly speaking, this case arises from an employment relationship that went entirely awry. It involves a dispute between Attorneys Lilley and Flynn regarding Flynn's ownership of transferred cases and Flynn's compensation while he was employed by Lilley at Daniel G. Lilley Law Office, P.A., as well as Flynn's compensation and case ownership after leaving Lilley's law firm, and Lilley's treatment of Flynn and his clients.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND:

Flynn worked at Lilley's firm from February 2009 to June 2011. Prior to joining Lilley's law firm in February 2009, Flynn was an attorney at Troubh Heisler, P.A. He applied to Lilley's firm after seeing a blind ad for an attorney paying a six-figure salary plus bonuses. Flynn brought cases with him from his former firm (" Flynn cases"). Before beginning at Lilley's firm, Flynn drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that discussed the employment terms between Lilley and Flynn. The MOU provided that Flynn was to be paid a salary of $115, 000.00 per year. The MOU also provided that Flynn was to be paid bonuses " based upon results generated", the amount of which were up to Lilley's discretion, and that some portion of the fees payable to Flynn from the Flynn cases would be payable to Lilley to compensate him for the resources that he provided. The MOU was executed by Lilley and Flynn on January 17, 2009.

During his employment with Lilley, after Lilley relayed news of the firm's financial distress, Flynn offered to reduce his salary from $115, 000.00 to $100, 000. The parties disagree regarding whether this salary reduction was supposed to be temporary and compensated for, or whether the salary reduction was permanent.

While Flynn was still employed by Lilley, a disagreement developed over their differing interpretations of the MOU and the actual implementation of the MOU. More specifically, the parties disagreed regarding the original cases section of the MOU, which dealt with cases Flynn brought with him from Troubh Heisler. In one Flynn case, Paige , Lilley issued Flynn a payment for $50, 000.00 to settle their dispute. The parties have differing interpretations regarding the purpose and effect of that payment. The parties also strongly contest how Flynn should be compensated for his win in Estate of Braley v. Eastern Maine Medical Center , a medical malpractice matter that secured a judgment of over 2 million dollars. After a series of contentious emails, including a profanity-laden email from Lilley, Flynn announced that he was resigning from Lilley's firm on May 12, 2011. Flynn and Lilley disagree regarding Lilley's behavior and intentions with respect to the case in light of Lilley's decision to obtain a new fee agreement for the case. When Flynn resigned from Lilley's practice, Lilley purportedly decided that a new fee agreement was necessary, because the original fee agreement was not witnessed. The agreement was also changed by Lilley to state that compensation was for the Daniel G. Lilley Law Offices, P.A., rather than simply for counsel.

Flynn states that shortly before he left the firm he was hospitalized due to stress induced conditions. Lilley allegedly told a number of people that Flynn was hospitalized as a result of a heart attack.

When Flynn left Lilley's firm on July 1, 2011, some of Flynn's clients followed him. Lilley responded by sending out attorney's fee lien letters.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW:

" Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals no issues of material fact in dispute. A fact is material if it has the potential to affect the outcome of the case." Lepage v. Bath Iron Works Corp ., 2006 ME 130, ¶ 9, 909 A.2d 629 (citations omitted).

The Law Court has held that " [s]ummary judgment is properly granted if the facts are not in dispute or, if the defendant has moved for summary judgment, the evidence favoring the plaintiff is insufficient to support a verdict for the plaintiff as a matter of law." Curtis v. Porter , 2001 ME 158, ¶ 7, 784 A.2d 18; see also Houde v. Millett , 2001 ME 183, ¶ 11, 787 A.2d 757. If " a defendant moves for summary judgment, the plaintiff 'must establish a prima facie case for each element of her cause of action' that is properly challenged in the defendant's motion." Curtis , 2001 ME 158, ¶ 8, 784 A.2d 18 (quoting Champagne v. Mid-Maine Med. Ctr ., 1998 ME 87, ¶ 9, 711 A.2d 842); see also Corey v. Norman, Hanson & DeTroy , 1999 ME 196, ¶ 9, 742 A.2d 933.

III. DISCUSSION:

a. Breach of contract and cross-motion

In order to demonstrate breach of contract, the party bringing the claim must demonstrate that there has been a " (1) breach of a material contract term; (2) causation; and (3) damages." Maine Energy Recovery Co. v. United Steel Structures, Inc ., 1999 ME 31, ¶ 7, 724 A.2d 1248. Flynn has alleged that the MOU was a contract that was breached by Lilley in three different ways: Lilley breached the contract due to his failure to compensate Flynn for his salary reduction; Lilley breached the contract by retaining Flynn's fees on the Flynn cases; and Lilley breached the contract by failing to pay Flynn bonuses on cases that originated at the Lilley Law Office.

The court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment regarding both Flynn's breach of contract claim, and Flynn's cross-claim for summary judgment that the Original ...


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