Sometimes, it isn’t what you (allegedly) did, but what you (allegedly) said that causes problems. (Tele Atlas v. Quinn Emanuel)
Tele Atlas sued its competitor, Navteq, claiming that Navteq was seeking to illegally monopolize the market for the digital map data used in various navigation systems. Quinn Emanuel, which represented Tele Atlas in this four-year long legal marathon, billed their client $15M – yes folks, that’s fifteen MILLION bucks. As later noted by the trial judge in Tele Atlas’ suit against Quinn Emanuel, that’s “lots and lots of money.”
Tele Atlas alleges that a Quinn Emanuel partner advised that it could recover its attorney’s fees in the anti-trust case. Quinn Emanuel denies offering any such advice and argued, at a motion hearing, that the firm had, in fact, told Tele Atlas that the damages case was weak. The judge was unconvinced by this argument, replying that “[d]amages and attorney’s fees are different.” (You’ve gotta love a judge who will say things like this.)
Tele Atlas further has alleged that Quinn Emanuel estimated that fees and costs for the anti-trust case would run $4-5M. After paying $13M, Tele Atlas stopped paying and sued. Quinn Emanuel, which asserts that it was clear as to its rates, contends that the suit is nothing more than a fee dispute – as if anyone would argue about a measly $2M.
The case has produced some interesting developments relating to discovery. Quinn Emanuel has been ordered to produce any correspondence received since January 2005 in which any current or former client of the firm claimed that “excessive time was devoted to a litigation matter by Quinn Emanuel or that excessive fees were charged by Quinn Emanuel for a litigation matter.” The firm was also directed to produce any documents related to “any incentives to Quinn Emanuel timekeepers to bill time to the Navteq dispute.”
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: If your attorneys are billing by the hour, WATCH THE BILLING.