Dowd Bennett Represents Prominent St. Louis Law Firm in Suit Against Former Law Partner

Dan Rabbitt sued by his former firm

by Christine Simmons, Missouri Lawyers Weekly

Firms often say when a prominent partner leaves that the exit was “amicable.”

The firm formerly known as Rabbitt, Pitzer & Snodgrass isn’t bothering with that pretense.

The firm sued Dan Rabbitt Wednesday, two days after he exited to start The Rabbitt Law Firm in West St. Louis County. Rabbitt, Pitzer & Snodgrass, which is changing its name to Pitzer Snodgrass, claims the lawyer owes $235,992 in accordance with a stock purchase agreement. The firm also claims in the lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court that Rabbitt urged two associates to leave with him and take confidential client records.

When reached for comment, Rabbitt referred to his attorney, Gerard Carmody of Carmody MacDonald.

In a statement, Carmody said the lawsuit was prompted by Rabbitt choosing not to retire.

“It’s unfortunate that the firm founded by Dan Rabbitt in 1991 has elected to file this action against him simply because Dan did not want to be forced into retirement.  Dan is one of the finest attorneys in St. Louis and has upheld all the terms of his contract with his former firm,” said Carmody, speaking on behalf of Rabbitt and the two associates named in the lawsuit, Marcus Raymond and Claire Wasson.

Carmody added that, “it is sad that after 20 years of practicing side-by-side with his former colleagues, they have opted to take this course of action.”
In the lawsuit, Rabbitt Pitzer claims the 2005 stock purchase agreement, signed shortly after Rabbitt turned 65, allowed Rabbitt to push off the date of his retirement and let the firm purchase firm stock from him.

The agreement says that, should Rabbitt leave the firm to continue a St. Louis practice elsewhere, he would pay the firm for each share previously paid for by the firm. The repayment is due April 3 — 90 days from Rabbitt’s departure, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims:

  • Rabbitt and the two associates removed large amounts of confidential and proprietary law firm property. Raymond and Wasson sent dozens of e-mails from their firm’s e-mail accounts to personal e-mail accounts, and Raymond attached several files that contained deposition outlines, draft pleadings, protective orders, draft settlement agreements and releases, and other documents.
  • Rabbitt urged Raymond and Wasson to take the confidential files after being solicited to leave the firm for his new firm. None of the clients whose confidential information was taken had consented to the removal.
  • Rabbitt solicited clients to leave Rabbitt Pitzer and allow him to continue to represent them at his new firm. Rabbitt Law Firm began to solicit clients using letterhead and a logo that’s similar to that of Rabbitt Pitzer.

“Rabbitt and The Rabbitt Law Firm knew, or through reasonable diligence should have known, that its actions were misleading and reasonably likely to deceive customers,” the suit says.

Steven Hughes, managing partner of the new firm Pitzer Snodgrass, said it was a surprise when Rabbitt left. He said he would not comment further and referred questions to the firm’s attorney, Ed Dowd, of Dowd Bennett, who declined to comment.

Copyright 2011 Missouri Lawyers Media

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