Ex-Holland & Knight Partner Files Suit in Benefits Dispute

In 1 on January 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

R. Thomas Farrar, who worked in Holland & Knight's Miami office, sued the firm after efforts to arbitrate a dispute over his 2002 termination broke down. He is now of counsel at Robert Allen Law in Miami.

Farrar was one of 60 attorneys and 170 other employees cut by the firm in April 2002 as it sought to improve its financial performance. Farrar, who had worked for the firm since 1981, sued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Dec. 23 after the arbitrator in the dispute withdrew from the case in 2007. Neither side could agree on a replacement. The firm suggested a substitute arbitrator that both sides agreed to, then reversed its decision, the complaint states.

He is seeking damages stemming from $95,920 in back retirement benefits beginning in June 2007 when he turned 63 years old, as well as interest and $5,048 per month in benefits for the rest of his life.

Farrar alleges in his complaint that the firm violated his partnership agreement by terminating him and wrongfully depriving him of his right to retirement benefits. He also alleges that the firm violated his separation agreement that specified the dispute would be resolved through arbitration. Because of that, Farrar alleges in the complaint that Holland & Knight has waived its right to arbitration.

Farrar did not return calls for comment by deadline. His attorney, Leon Patricios, a partner with Coral Gables-based Zumpano Patricios & Winker, declined to comment on the suit, but said he was unaware of similar complaints against the firm.

John Weir, a former Holland & Knight partner in the firm's New York office who was dismissed in November 2002, sued the firm in federal court years after his dismissal. He accused the firm of violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The suit was dismissed in August 2007.

Karen McBride, a Holland & Knight spokeswoman, said in a prepared statement that the firm believes Farrar is not entitled to the benefits he seeks.

"This complaint relates to a dispute with a former partner who left the firm in 2002, which has been the subject of arbitration for the past six years," McBride said. "The underlying claim is for certain retirement benefits, to which the firm believes he has no entitlement."

Farrar's suit sheds some light on the circumstances that surround the 2002 mass dismissals. The complaint claims Holland & Knight had the right to terminate him with or without cause, but said the firm failed to follow termination procedures under the partnership agreement.

The complaint also alleges the firm's leaders acted in bad faith, because they failed to discuss the matter with him before giving him his pink slip. The firm leaders likely handled the terminations of the other lawyers in the 2002 round of cuts in a similar manner, the suit states.

Farrar's suit also says the firm made the decision to terminate him based on an erroneous belief that he was unprofitable. But he said the firm failed to consider the $3 million in net profit revenues he generated though a consulting subsidiary. He said that made him one of the firm's most profitable lawyers during the three years before his termination.

"Because H&K did not even discuss the matter with Farrar before he was terminated, he was deprived of the opportunity to correct that and other erroneous facts and information or to defend himself against termination on the basis of erroneous or incomplete information," the lawsuit states.

Posted via email from HKLaw Investigation


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