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Nolan Law Group v. Boeing Co.

March 24, 2010

NOLAN LAW GROUP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, the Nolan Law Group, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County a complaint seeking the enforcement of a lien under the Illinois Attorneys Lien Act, 770 ILCS 5/1. Defendant, the Boeing Company ("Boeing"), removed the case to this Court. Plaintiff has filed a motion to remand, and defendant has filed a motion to transfer to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants plaintiff's motion to remand and denies defendant's motion to transfer.

I. Background

In October 2007, the Nolan Law Group filed on behalf of their clients a lawsuit (the "Papapetrou case") against Boeing and other entities. The Papapetrou case arose out of a crash--in Greece--of a military helicopter manufactured by Boeing. Before filing the Papapetrou case, which it filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Nolan Law Group filed a similar suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Boeing removed the Papapetrou case to this Court and asked the Court to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs asked the Court to remand the Papapetrou case to the Circuit Court of Cook County. This Court concluded that the Papapetrou case was properly removed on the basis of the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442 and, therefore, denied the motion to remand. The Court then granted the motion to transfer venue, because the Court concluded that the transfer was warranted by the convenience of the parties and witnesses.

The Papapetrou case progressed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania before District Judge Thomas O'Neill. Defendants informed the court that they intended to file a motion for summary judgment, and plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss voluntarily. Judge O'Neill denied the motion. When the plaintiffs moved for reconsideration, Judge O'Neill entered an order that stated:

As summarized on page 7 of Boeing's brief in opposition to plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss, the record reveals flagrant forum shopping on behalf of plaintiffs and plaintiffs' counsel.

Plaintiffs' contention that "absolutely nothing of substance . . . has occurred in this Court" is completely devoid of merit. As a result of the telephone conference on February 2, 2009, plaintiffs' counsel was aware that defendants intended to file summary judgment motions by March 19, 2009 and a voluminous motion was filed by defendants on that date. The obvious purpose of plaintiffs' motion to dismiss is to avoid filing a response to defendants' motion. (3/27/09 Order).

With Judge O'Neill's encouragement, the parties agreed to mediate. At the mediation, the Papapetrou-case plaintiffs were represented by both Paul Borth of the Nolan Law Group and Stelios Gregoriou of Athens, Greece. Boeing reached a settlement with each of the four plaintiffs. It appears that Boeing paid three of the four plaintiffs via Stelios Gregoriou, who failed to share any of the fee with Paul Borth or the Nolan Law Group. The Nolan Law Group alleges in this suit that it had previously served Boeing with notices of their attorneys' lien pursuant to the Illinois Attorneys Lien Act.

When the Nolan Law Group figured out that it was getting squeezed out of its fees, it filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania a motion to file under seal a motion to enforce its lien under the Illinois Attorneys Lien Act. The Nolan Law Group sought to file the motion under seal to avoid disclosing the terms of the settlement. On December 3, 2009, Judge O'Neill denied without prejudice the motion to file under seal and encouraged the parties to mediate the fee dispute with the same mediator who had mediated the original settlement. It is not clear whether the parties ever mediated the fee dispute.

What is clear is that the Nolan Law Group supplied Boeing with a copy of the motion to enforce the lien (which motion it never actually filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania) and threatened to file the motion if Boeing did not discuss settling the fee dispute. Instead of filing the motion with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Nolan Law Group filed a complaint to enforce the lien in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Boeing removed the case to this Court on December 30, 2009. By early January 2010, the Papapetrou-case plaintiffs had fired the Nolan Law Group.

Boeing moved the Court to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Nolan Group moved to remand. Both motions are now fully briefed.

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

As the proponent of federal jurisdiction, Boeing "bears the risk of nonpersuasion" and must present evidence that this Court has jurisdiction. Hart v. FedEx Ground Package Sys. Inc., 457 F.3d 675, 682 (7th Cir. 2006). In ...


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