Lawyers and law firms that work on a contingency basis will often come into large windfalls when a client reaches a large settlement or wins a sizable jury verdict. When that happens, many law firms share the wealth with all of their employees, including office workers and even their secretaries. This is especially true when the firm has a small number of lawyers and still reaps profits from large settlements. However, that is not always the case. In a recent case that sits at the intersection between personal injury and employment law, a paralegal is suing his former law firm, claiming that they fired him rather than pay him the bonus that he believed was coming to him after he had completed work on several mass tort cases.
Mass tort lawsuit
James Tritz worked as a paralegal at the law firm Danziger & De Llano. The firm handles mass tort litigation and has been in business since 1997. The firm’s website lists four attorneys on the firm’s staff. The firm handles personal injury and product liability cases. The law firm routinely claims to obtain multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of the firm’s clients. Danziger & De Llano has a particular expertise in mesothelioma cases.
High profile litigation
Tritz had an incentive-based pay agreement with the firm. As opposed to be paid just a straight salary, Tritz also received a bonus based on the work that he did in addition to his regular salary. Here, he was paid five percent of the firm’s revenue when the firm settled mass tort cases. These settlements will often put large amounts of money into the firm’s coffers. This was apparently the case here as the firm worked on several high-profile pieces of litigation, including the mass lawsuit surrounding the drug Invokana.
According to the lawsuit, Tritz put in an inordinate amount of work on these cases. Paralegals at small law firms with heavy case dockets will routinely handle a large amount of responsibility and are a critical part of the firm. Tritz’s heavy workload included work over holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Tritz claims to have routinely put in 70 to 90 hours of work on many weeks as he helped the firm make its way through its litigation caseload. Tritz claimed to have worked weekends and only took two vacations during his nine years that he was employed by the firm. In his complaint, Tritza claims that one of those two vacations was not actually for pleasure, but was for the funeral of a family member.
Tritz claims that he informed the firm’s partners that he completed work on two large cases in early March. In addition to the Invokana case, where the drug was alleged to have caused diabetic ketoacidosis, Tritz also assisted the firm on cases relating to Attune. This was litigation related to a knee implant that claimed that surgical glue would not allow the implant to properly attach to the tibia. While the Attune cases have not settled yet, there have been numerous lawsuits filed against the device maker DuPuy.
In addition to these two cases, Tritz also had a role in many other pieces of visible litigation that led to settlements or verdicts for firm clients. Among other things, he assisted with the firm’s dockets in transvaginal mesh cases that led to settlements for clients. He also worked on hernia mesh and hip replacement cases.
Two days after Tritz told the partners that he had completed his tasks on these cases, he was fired from the firm. According to Tritz, he was due a large amount of money for his portion of the revenues on several cases. The basis of the firm’s decision to fire Tritz is not known, but the fired paralegal claims that he was let go solely for the reason of not paying him the money that he believes that he was due under his bonus arrangement. The lawsuit is seeking $1 million in damages from the firm. This includes both the compensation as well as other expenses such as attorney’s fees.
Tritz alleges a number of counts in the lawsuit such as breach of contract, unjust enrichment, theft of services and fraud and misrepresentation. Tritz filed the lawsuit on August 7 in Harris County District Court. The named defendants in the case are the two partners of the firm. The Houston law firm Sears & Crawford is representing Tritz.