The local attorney who allegedly conducted a “weekend raid” of clients from his former law firm has denied those allegations and made a counterclaim of defamation.
Jack R. Hilgeman said in his answer to a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court lawsuit that Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal (HN&B) made false statements that were published across various print and social media, including publication in the Dayton Daily News, Facebook, WHIO and other social media accounts.
“Plaintiff’s false statements about Defendants were defamatory and intended to injure Defendants in their trade or occupation and cause them special harm,” wrote Hilgeman’s attorney, Richard Boucher. “As a result of Plaintiff’s false statements, damages and malice are presumed.”
Hilgeman also alleged that a third party, Fred Sommer III, a partner at HN&B, made false statements of fact in an affidavit about Hilgeman and defendants Christopher Cowan, John P. Hilgeman and the firm of Cowan & Hilgeman and promoted those statements before the public in a false light.
Boucher’s counterclaim seeks from visiting Judge Timothy Hogan a judgment in excess of $25,000 plus interest, costs, attorney fees, punitive damages and any other relief the court determines to be fair and equitable.
“We have adequately addressed the claims made by the plaintiff and Mr. Fred Sommer in our answers, counterclaim, third-party complaint and motions to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint,” Boucher said Monday.
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In the original complaint filed by plaintiff’s attorney Craig Matthews, HN&B charged that Jack Hilgeman sent an email of resignation at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, May 5.
“During the ensuing hours, Hilgeman secretly conducted a ‘weekend raid’ of information contained in the firm’s confidential files, copying the firm’s confidential data onto his own devices,” according to the complaint. “Hilgeman then hurriedly and without notice to or consent of the firm, used the firm’s confidential information to contact the firm’s clients for the purpose of inducing them to leave the firm and retain Hilgeman.”
The filing also included a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Hilgeman, who started at HN&B in May 2012.
Boucher has sought a stay to all proceedings pending an arbitration process, writing in one motion that “the claims are thinly disguised efforts to avoid mandatory administrative procedures for fee disputes between attorneys and are subject to arbitration.”
Matthews said Monday that the defendants broadly denied nearly all the allegations of the original complaint, even that Hilgeman was an associate attorney pursuant to the terms of an employment agreement, “although his signature appears on the employment agreement attached to the complaint.
“In this context they go on to claim the allegations of the complaint and the article published by this newspaper were ‘defamatory.’ Suffice it to say my clients trust the legal system and remain confident justice will prevail.”