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Mount v. Baron

July 16, 2001

MAXINE M. MOUNT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALAN I. BARON ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 19, 20, 21

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Maxine Mount and Building Services Unlimited, Inc. ("BSUI") (collectively, "the plaintiffs"), bring this pro se suit for legal malpractice against Howrey & Simon and Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP ("Howrey" or "Howrey & Simon"), Alan I. Baron, Esq., and Foley, Hoag & Elliot, LLP ("Foley, Hoag") (collectively, "the defendants"). Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants dropped and failed to re-add Spriggs & Hollingsworth and other unnamed "culpable" law firms to an earlier case in which Maxine Mount sued a lawyer for malpractice, Mount v. Riley, Dkt. No. 94cv1680 (HHG) (D.D.C.). The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants committed malpractice by dropping and not re-adding certain unspecified counts in the second amended complaint. The defendants move to dismiss for a number of reasons. The court will grant the defendants' motions to dismiss because the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

II. BACKGROUND *fn1

In 1976, Maxine Mount founded Building Services Unlimited, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio. See Ex. C in Def. Howrey's Mot. to Dis. Pls.' Compl. ("Howrey's Mot. to Dis.") (Mount v. Riley Compl. ¶¶ 6-11, 32-50). The company's mission was to pursue commercial building-maintenance contracts. Over the years, BSUI grew and Ms. Mount sought larger contracts. During this process, Ms. Mount hired Dennis Riley, an attorney specializing in government contracts. Mr. Riley provided periodic legal assistance to BSUI in its efforts to secure government contracts. In addition to these services, Mr. Riley represented BSUI and Ms. Mount in several lawsuits in which BSUI and Ms. Mount had been named as defendants.

In June 1994, Ms. Mount sued Mr. Riley in D.C. Superior Court, alleging legal malpractice by Mr. Riley and his various law firms dating back to 1986. The defendants removed the case to federal court in August 1994. See Howrey's Mot. to Dis. at 2. Barry Coburn, Esq., initially represented the plaintiffs in Mount v. Riley, but he withdrew from the case in late 1994 after Jonathan Feld and Alan Baron of Howrey & Simon took over the case. Mr. Feld left Howrey & Simon in February 1995, but did not withdraw from the case until January 1997. See id.

Meanwhile, in June 1996, Mr. Baron left Howrey & Simon to join Foley, Hoag & Eliot, LLP ("Foley, Hoag") and took the Mount case with him. Mr. Baron and Foley, Hoag, his new firm, withdrew from the case in February 1997. See id at 3. Thereafter, the plaintiffs hired Robert Ackerman to represent BSUI and Raighne Delaney, Richard Murray, and Jacob Pompan to represent Ms. Mount. A year later, in October 1998, the plaintiffs fired these counsel and rehired Barry Coburn. See id.

The first trial in Mount v. Riley ended with a hung jury in February 2000. See Howrey's Mot. to Dis. at 3. At the second trial in October 2000, the jury found the defendants not liable on two counts, and liable on a third count. *fn2 See id. The jury, however, did not award the plaintiffs any damages on the third count. Currently, there are motions pending on that verdict. See id.

On March 6, 2000, the plaintiffs, through Barry Coburn, filed this lawsuit alleging legal malpractice based on the defendants' negligence. See Howrey's Mot. to Dis. at 3. The complaint was filed after the first trial in Mount v. Riley ended, but before the second trial started. See id. In the complaint, the plaintiffs name Alan I. Baron, and the law firms Howrey & Simon and Foley, Hoag as the defendants. See Compl. ¶ 2. The current complaint charges that the defendants committed malpractice in the second amended complaint filed by the defendants in October 1994 in Mount v. Riley. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege legal malpractice based on the defendants' dropping and not re-adding Spriggs & Hollingsworth and other unnamed law firms. The plaintiffs also claim malpractice based on the dropping and not re-adding "a variety of counts" in the second amended complaint. See Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10.

On January 8, 2001, the plaintiffs faxed to Chambers a motion for leave to amend the complaint to add additional defendants, but failed to file the motion with the court clerk's office. See Facsimile from Maxine M. Mount, plaintiff, to Judge Urbina's Chambers (Jan. 8, 2001). Nevertheless, Ms. Mount told defendant Howrey of her fax and, as a result, defendant Howrey submitted an opposition to the plaintiffs' motion to amend. See Howrey's Opp'n to Mot. to Am. ("Howrey's Opp'n"). On January 8, 2001, the plaintiffs' attorney, Mr. Coburn, withdrew from this case after he was fired. *fn3 Thus, Ms. Mount is now pro se. See Howrey's Mot. to Dis. at 3.

On February 14, 2001, defendant Foley, Hoag filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. See Foley, Hoag's Mot. to Dis. at 1. In addition, defendant Howrey filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that: (1) the claims are barred by the statute of limitations; (2) the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted; and (3) the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See Howrey's Mot. to Dis. at 1. On March 20, 2001, the plaintiffs responded to the above motions by submitting what may be construed as the second amended complaint. This pleading contains five counts against the defendants: (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of confidentiality; (3) negligence; (4) "standard of care and emotional distress"; and (5) legal malpractice. See Pls.' Answer to Mot. to Dis. ("Pls.' Answer"). Both defendants replied to this proposed second amended complaint. See Foley, Hoag's Reply and Howrey's Reply.

Because the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the court will grant the ...


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