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Trice v. Napoli Shkolnik PLLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 26, 2019

Bridget Trice, as trustee for the heirs and next of kin of Devyn Bolton, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, Hunter J. Shkolnik, and Paul Napoli Law PLLC, Defendants.

          Denise S. Rahne, Esq., and Ena M. Kovacevic, Esq., Robins Kaplan LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Robert W.Vaccaro, Esq., and M. Gregory Simpson, Esq., Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendants Napoli Shkolnik PLLC and Paul Napoli Law PLLC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On June 4, 2019, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Napoli Shkolnik PLLC (“NS”) and Paul Napoli Law PLLC's (“PNL”) Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss [Docket No. 23], and Plaintiff Bridget Trice's (“Trice”) Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint [Docket No. 53]. For the reasons set forth below, NS and PNL's Motion is denied and Trice's Motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Parties

         Trice is the trustee for the heirs and next of kin of her daughter Devyn Bolton (“Bolton”). First Am. Compl. [Docket No. 18] ¶ 3. In 2006, Bolton was a passenger in a car stopped at an intersection in St. Paul, Minnesota when a Toyota Camry slammed into the car. Id. ¶ 12. Bolton died in 2007 from injuries she sustained in the crash. Id.

         NS is a New York City law firm formed in 2015. First M. Napoli Decl. [Docket No. 31] ¶ 2. Hunter J. Shkolnik (“Shkolnik”) is a partner with NS. First Am. Compl. ¶ 6.[1] PNL is a law firm formed in 2014 and is also located in New York City. P. Napoli Decl. [Docket No. 32] ¶ 2. None of NS or PNL's partners reside in Minnesota or hold a Minnesota law license. First M. Napoli Decl. ¶¶ 3-4; P. Napoli Decl. ¶¶ 3-4. Neither firm maintains any offices, bank accounts, or real property in Minnesota or has any agents for service of process in Minnesota. First M. Napoli Decl. ¶¶ 5-6; P. Napoli Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.

         B. Toyota Litigation

         In 2010, Trice sued Toyota Motor Corporation (“Toyota”) in Minnesota state court, alleging a design defect in the Toyota Camry caused the 2006 accident. First Am. Compl. ¶ 12; see also Trice v. Toyota Motor Corp., Civ. No. 10-2804 (“Toyota Litigation”). The case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. See Notice Removal [Toyota Litigation Docket No. 1].

         In July 2012, Trice hired Shkolnik and his predecessor law firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik (“NBRS”) to act as lead litigation counsel in the Toyota Litigation. First Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Trice alleges she terminated Defendants in 2014 for making an unauthorized settlement demand on Toyota. Id. ¶¶ 1, 15-16. Trice also alleges that she later learned Defendants failed to disclose to Toyota during discovery the full amount of medical expenses Bolton incurred as a result of her injuries. Id. ¶¶ 2, 18-21. Defendants disclosed approximately $1 million in medical expenses, while the full amount was approximately $1.5 million. Id. ¶¶ 2, 21.

         At trial in the Toyota Litigation, the Court precluded Trice from recovering any medical expenses not disclosed in discovery. Id. ¶ 23. Toyota stipulated to the $1 million in medical expenses that had been disclosed. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. In February 2015, a jury returned a verdict in Trice's favor in the Toyota Litigation. Id. ¶ 24. The judgment entered for Trice included $1 million in stipulated medical expenses, plus prejudgment interest of 10%. Id. ¶ 25.

         At the conclusion of the trial in the Toyota Litigation, Trice moved for a distribution of disputed attorneys' fees. See Pl.'s Mot. [Toyota Litigation Docket No. 716]. NS filed a response arguing that NS was formerly NBRS, and that NS conducted significant work in the Toyota Litigation entitling it to recovery in quantum meruit for its services. See Resp. [Toyota Litigation Docket No. 746, Attach. 1] at 3 (“Napoli Shkolnik (formerly Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik) conducted significant work on this action, and has asserted a lien for the reasonable value of its services.”); id. at 2 (stating “Napoli Shkolnik (then NBRS) first became involved in these matters in July 2012, ” and “NS did considerable work on this matter”); Farnolo Decl. ...


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