The departure of a local attorney from the firm he helped found has turned ugly, and the two sides might soon face off in court.
Attorney Brad Marrs filed suit in late May against MG Law, alleging he’s owed $45,000 after the firm’s remaining shareholders failed to buy back his stake in the firm when he resigned in March. He also claims the firm was seeking retribution against him for leaving.
MG Law fired back last week with a counterclaim, saying it owes Marrs nothing because he breached the shareholder contract and allegedly conspired against the firm and copied and destroyed files on his way out.
MG Law is represented in the case by Stephen Conte, an attorney with Blackburn, Conte, Schilling and Click. Conte said he doesn’t discuss pending cases.
Marrs also declined to comment.
Marrs was a founding shareholder of the firm, which was created in 1991 as MGM Law. He specializes in workers compensation cases.
Marrs says in his suit that his resignation from MGM was in response to a “concerted effort” to repress his minority interest in the firm. He says he was subjected to onerous financial terms, including liens the firm placed on 40 percent of the fees from his cases that had not closed upon his departure.
Marrs’s suit also claims that the firm notified him in writing that it was withholding payment of the $45,000 “in an overt attempt to pressure Marrs” either to forego that payment or to use the funds in lieu of the alleged liens on case fees. He also challenges the validity of the shareholder agreement and of the liens.
When Marrs moved out, he didn’t go far.
He opened the Marrs Law Firm just a few hundreds yards away from MG in another building in the same office park off Forest Avenue in the West End.
MG claims in its countersuit that Marrs took more than just the second “M” with him when he departed.
In its response to the suit, the firm says Marrs “entered the office during a weekend and caused the deletion of significant information and client files.”
The counterclaim alleges Marrs copied, removed and destroyed certain files on MG’s computers, including records related to accounts receivable on his open cases.
MG claims Marrs “engaged in a persistent, longstanding and deliberate pattern of conduct” prior to his resignation, aimed at benefiting himself, a man named George “Rick” Yanitello and Advantage Resources LLC.
Yanitello, who is not an attorney, now works at the Marrs Law Firm. He is chief executive of Advantage Resources, which works on workers compensation cases.
The firm’s countersuit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, two counts of conspiracy and violation of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act. The firm claims it has been damaged to the tune of $500,000 and has requested a jury trial.
Marrs has asked Henrico Circuit Court for a judgment against the firm.