Trendsettah’s Quest for $11.8 Million in Legal Fees from Swisher

Manoj Prasad

A California company called Trendsettah is suing its long-time competitor Swisher for an eye-popping $11.8 million in legal expenses, a staggering amount in the high-stakes world of tobacco where legal conflicts burn as fiercely as cigarettes. This court case has been a rollercoaster journey through the law and a sight to watch unfold.

Trendsettah has filed suit in federal court in California, describing how it relied on contingency-fee lawyers from the prestigious San Francisco firm Gaw | Poe and the Washington, D.C. firm Goldstein, Russell & Woofter. When Trendsettah initially accused Swisher of breaking a contract and violating U.S. antitrust laws in 2014, this feud began at that time.

The dispute centers on a claim by Trendsettah that Swisher failed to meet its contractual obligation to deliver an astounding 200 million “cigarillos,” a move that Trendsettah says was made to maintain a monopolistic position in the market.

A $10 million judgment verdict in favor of Trendsettah on their contract claim was reinstated last year, marking a turning point in the legal battle. Trendsettah had hoped to collect $44 million in an antitrust award, but that was quickly dashed by a trial court verdict.

This legal battle has been full of high stakes, with both sides accusing the other of lying and betrayal. A sanctions motion filed on behalf of Swisher by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher earlier this year alleged that Trendsettah had built its case “on a foundation of criminal misconduct, fraud, and misrepresentation.”

Legal representation for Swisher was provided by Gibson Dunn’s Theodore Boutrous, who is confident that previous judgments in this matter spell doom for Trendsettah’s attempt to recover legal expenses. It’s a court struggle where every move is dissected, and Swisher has no intention of giving up.

Notably, Trendsettah’s legal team has chosen silence in light of the ongoing dispute. Maybe they think that in this high-stakes game, silence is golden.

Swisher was awarded a $4 million punishment against Trendsettah, and this new development in the case comes just days later. Swisher originally asked for nearly $20 million in fines and charges, claiming that Trendsettah hid a tax evasion scheme while trying to recoup millions of dollars in alleged lost profits from Swisher.

Although Swisher had argued that Trendsettah’s entire lawsuit was filed in bad faith, U.S. District Judge James Selna of Santa Ana recently handed a setback to their arguments by dismissing this argument. Without a doubt, Trendsettah’s optimism and resolve have been revitalized by this verdict.

Trendsettah’s attorney Mark Poe wrote in the firm’s current fee application that his team “persevered, and have now returned Trendsettah to the position of the prevailing party.” This shows how dedicated they are to their client’s cause.

Thomas Goldstein, an appellate veteran and member of Trendsettah’s legal team, stands up as a key actor in this legal saga. Former Goldstein, Russell & Woofter partner Jeffrey Goldstein was no ordinary attorney; a Trendsettah file shows that his hourly billing rate for this year was a startling $2,180.

The hourly charges for Swisher’s legal eagles at Gibson Dunn, on the other hand, are sealed and kept under wraps. In spite of this, Trendsettah has been quick to claim that Goldstein’s rate was “on par” with the hourly costs of Gibson Dunn’s Boutrous. Such comparisons are highly relevant when every dollar counts.

To sum up, Trendsettah and Swisher’s fight in the tobacco industry is more than just a legal duel; it’s a high-stakes clash with millions of dollars at stake, reputations on the line, and even legal expenses serving as a point of contention. The federal judge in California who is presiding over this duel is the center of attention as the drama unfolds in the courtroom.

U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 8:14-cv-01664: Trendsettah USA, Inc. v. Swisher International, Inc.

Gaw|Poe’s Mark Poe and Randolph Gaw, along with Thomas Goldstein and Eric Citron, created Trendsettah.

Michael Marsh of Akerman and Theodore Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher represented Swisher in court.

SOURCES: Reuters
Share This Article