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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 9, 2004 14 years ago

Lawsuits (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Suit charges Trial Consulting Services LL uncompensated from $276 million awardBattle over phone lines results in caseSecurities dealer accused of stiffing law firm

Lawsuits (Tampa edition)

Some Gratitude

Trial Consulting Services LLC assigned two consultants and spent 12 weeks nearly two years ago working for the Baltimore law firm that won one of the largest civil jury awards in Maryland history. Jurors awarded $276 million to Steele Software System Corp. in a civil fraud action against First Union National Bank, now Wachovia.

Despite the invoices sent, Snyder Slutkin & Kopec, which represented Steele Software, supposedly has yet to compensate the Tampa firm for its work. Now Trial Consulting wants a judge to enforce its contract with the firm.

The Tampa company wants $210,859 for the work it provided, plus interest of $64,805, according to a lawsuit filed in mid-December in the 13th Judicial Circuit. The firm retained Richard J. McIntyre of Tampa's Trenam, Kemker, Scharf, Barkin, Frye, O'Neill & Mullis.

It's uncertain whether First Union's appeal figured into the payment dispute. Just about a week after the Tampa firm filed the lawsuit, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reduced the Steele Software award to only $37 million.

Disconnected

Tampa lawyer Peter Pappas jumped at an opportunity last summer to cut his advertising costs in Verizon's "SuperPages."

David Antoniak, a salesman with Affluent Media Inc., offered advertising discounts if the Pappas Law Firm PA created two new business entities and contracted with BTI Telecom for four new telephone numbers. Pappas agreed and created Immigration Lawyers Group Inc. and Tax Professionals Group Inc.

Around mid-October, Pappas claims, Antoniak tried to modify the sales contract. Instead of installment payments, Antoniak asked Pappas to pay the full amount of $22,800. If the law firm didn't pay, Pappas claims, Antoniak suggested Affluent Media might be forced to reorganize under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Pappas declined.

Soon afterward, Pappas learned that Antoniak acquired the four telephone lines in the name of Affluent Media. Then in early December someone disconnected the lines, leaving the law firm without basic telephone service.

The law firm is now suing Antoniak and Affluent Media for breach of contract in the 13th Judicial Circuit.

Nonpayment

Securities dealer Glen Benussi apparently didn't like the legal representation he received from Williams Schifino Mangione & Steady PA.

Benussi failed to pay the Tampa firm $67,578 in legal fees, and his companion, Patricia A. Conte, purportedly stopped payment on a $25,000 check.

The law firm last month asked the 13th Judicial Circuit to force payment.

The law firm represented Benussi from June 1, 2001, to March 17, 2003, in the federal court for the Southern District of New York on a criminal charge of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. A jury found him guilty.

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