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Legal Briefs (Tampa)

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  • | 6:00 p.m. May 20, 2005
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Legal Briefs (Tampa)

Tampa architect firm settles

over West African bid projects

Sylla Inc., a Tampa architectural firm, has reached a tentative settlement in its federal lawsuit against a Montgomery, Ala., general contractor over U.S. State Department bid work in West Africa.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Tampa, against Caddell Construction Co. Inc.

However, the terms are subject to public review at a later date in a pending Chapter 11 reorganization petition that Sylla filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Tampa. Two years ago, the architectural firm claimed assets of $58,493 and liabilities of $1.1 million.

Cheikh Sylla, the firm's president, claims he invested significant resources in two design-build embassy projects in Conarky, Guinea Republic, and Yaonde, Cameroon. However, Sylla claims the Montgomery company misled him about State Department concerns over security clearances. He claims the Montgomery company then illegally removed his firm from the project and found a substitute.

The Montgomery company denied Sylla's accusations.

Sylla retained Tampa attorney John Anthony, Scott Lilly and Cheryl Thompson of GrayRobinson PA. Aubrey Coleman Jr. and William Baggett Jr. of Atlanta's Smith Currie & Hancock represented the Montgomery company.

Arbitration panel favors

Sarasota widow's claim

Sarasota widow Joann Desrosiers suspected agents for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. had mismanaged investment proceeds belonging to her, the estate of her late husband and her trust account. An arbitration panel recently agreed with her.

On the widow's behalf, Tampa attorney Joe Varner of Knopik Varner & Moore PA negotiated a $400,000 settlement plus 5% annual interest since July 2001. Varn originally filed a claim for nearly $1.5 million in compensatory damages, interest, costs and attorneys fees. The panel referred the widow and Baird's claims for attorneys fees to the courts.

Although the panel found it liable, the Milwaukee-based investment banking and securities firm denied allegations it mismanaged money belonging to the widow, the estate of her late husband, Sarasota inventor and land developer W.N. "Bill" Desrosiers, and the Joann E. Desrosiers revocable trust. The panel had dismissed the widow's allegations that the brokerage churned the accounts to increase brokerage fees.

In a related action, the arbitration panel severed a third-party complaint the brokerage filed against Desrosiers' son, David Desrosiers.

Tampa electrical subcontractor

sues GrayRobinson, shareholder

Electric Machinery Enterprises Inc. sued GrayRobinson PA and one of its Orlando shareholders in the Hillsborough County courts on allegations of professional malpractice.

The subsidiary of Tampa-based EarthFirst Technologies Inc. criticized the performance of GrayRobinson shareholder Kevin Kelly. He had represented the subsidiary against a lawsuit Universal City Development Partners LP and Jacobs Facilities Inc. filed five years ago in the Orange County courts.

Following a 24-day trial two years ago, an Orlando circuit judge awarded Universal City and Jacob Facilities almost $6.4 million in damages. The plaintiffs accused the subsidiary, an electrical subcontractor that produces about $45 million in annual revenue, of abandoning a job at Universal Studio's Toon Lagoon entertainment attraction.

The subsidiary retained Sandy Solomon and Hallie Evans of Tampa's Solomon Tropp Law Group PA to file the malpractice claim. It seeks unspecified compensatory and special damages and prejudgment and post-judgment interests.

Among the actions alleged, the malpractice claim accuses Kelly of failing to designate an expert's area of expertise and develop the expert's testimony about the scope of the work completed. It also accuses Kelly of failing to take reasonable efforts to work with a surety, AIG, which took a contrary position to his trial strategy.

Odessa lawyer surrenders

law license for five years

Odessa lawyer Brian James Almengual has surrendered his law license in lieu of formal disciplinary proceedings.

The Florida Supreme Court granted Almengual - admitted to practice law in 1983 - permission to seek readmission five years from a Feb. 24 court order. It also fined him $2,541.

A Florida Bar complaint cited five pending allegations against him at the grievance level and two pending at the staff level. One of the grievance-level complaints accused him of concealing assets in a personal bankruptcy case.

The complaint also accused him of charging clients excessive fees, trust-accounting violations and failure to communicate with clients.

Over the past several years, Almengual operated as the principal of Almengual & Associates PA, Almengual Law Group PA, Almengual & Truehaft PA and Almengual & Warner PA.


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