Dumping three small clients for a more lucrative class action proved to be a less profitable deal than Maine law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro had bargained for. It resulted in a $10.8 million jury verdict against the firm.
While represented by Hagens Berman in 2003, Glenwood Farms Inc., Carrabassett Spring Water and New York-based Tear of the Clouds were close to reaching a settlement with Nestle? Waters North America. The bottlers alleged the company's subsidiary, Poland Spring, misled consumers by claiming its water was "natural spring water," when the water is actually derived from wells.
According to the suit, Hagens Berman dropped its clients before finalizing the settlement and filed class action claims in five other states, causing Poland Springs to withdraw its settlement offer. The bottlers sued, and a 12-person jury found unanimously March 22 that the firm was liable for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, tortious interference with a prospective business opportunity and negligence/malpractice, according to William Robitzek of Bermam Simmons, who represented two of the bottlers.
The jury awarded Maine companies Glenwood Farms Inc. and Carrabassett Spring Water $3.8 million each, and Tear of the Clouds $3 million.