Attorneys’ Dispute Over Case Expenses Will Force Maryland Attorney to Defend Case in Tennessee

A dispute between a Tennessee plaintiffs’ firm and a Maryland plaintiffs’ firm over responsibility for litigation expenses will be resolved in Tennessee, says the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

The Wolff Ardis firm in Memphis and the Law Offices of Jonathan Dailey in Washington, D.C. teamed up together to work on a auto glass product liability case in Maryland.  They had a written agreement on the division of case expenses; the agreement was governed by the law of Virginia.  There was a defense verdict in the case, and Wollf Ardis billed Dailey  for $48,63.45 it claimed it was owned under the agreement.  Wolff Ardis filed suit against Dailey in Memphis, and Dailey contested the jurisdiction of the Tennessee courts.

The Court of Appeals held that Dailey could be sued in Tennessee.  Applying the recent opinion of specific personal jurisdiction set forth in State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Training Co., 403 S.W.3d 726 (Tenn. 2013), the court noted that a two-part test must be applied in determining whether Dailey could be sued in Tennessee:  (1) are minimum contacts present (a fact fathering exercise) and (2) if minimum contacts exist, is the exercise of jurisdiction unreasonable or unfair. 

Here, the court said, Dailey created a substantial connection with Tennessee by initiating contact with the Tennessee firm, contracting with that firm, resulting in litigation arising out of that activity.  Likewise, the court ruled that Dailey could not prove that it was unreasonable or unfair to subject him to jurisdiction here.  The court also lists of number of court opinions from other states in similar cases, some of which found jurisdiction and other cases which did not. 

Any reader facing a similar issue anywhere in the country will be well-advised to start use this opinion to jump start his or her research.  Likewise, lawyer readers who associate with firms from other states will want to keep in mind the risk of being hailed into the court of another state in the event of a dispute between the firms.

The case is Wolff Ardis, P.C. v. Jonathan C. Dailey,  W2013-01127-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. October 11, 2013); opinion by Judge Allen E. Highers.  

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