A St. Petersburg company is suing a major law firm and one of its Tampa partners for alleged malpractice, claiming they bungled patent applications for a prosthetic liner and a device that heats shaving cream.
In separate lawsuits filed in federal and state court, ALPS South, LLC is seeking more than $60 million from Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and an unspecified amount from the firm and attorney Ronald Christaldi.
Christaldi was closely involved in ALPS South's patent cases but was not among the 2.7 percent of U.S. lawyers considered "patent attorneys'' because of their training and experience, one of the lawsuit says.
Shumaker, Loop "did not recognize that lawyer Christaldi undertook to handle a specialized kind of work — application for a patent — for which he had no education or training or qualification or experience,'' the suit alleges.
Christaldi, a prominent member of the firm and a former chairman and general counsel of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, referred calls for comment to Ohio-based Shumaker, Loop. The firm denies wrong-doing and has counter-sued ALPS South, claiming it owes the firm $2.64 million for legal fees and other costs.
"We have full faith in our partners and will continue to vigorously defend our firm," Julio Esquivel, managing partner of the Tampa office, said Tuesday. "We trust in our courts and are confident that the full story will be ultimately revealed. It is very disappointing that a long-standing client would react in this fashion to collection on a significant amount rightly owed to our firm."
According to a lawsuit filed July 24 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Christaldi had for years represented ALPS South, which makes products including prosthetic liners and sleeves for artificial limbs. The suit says he had charged the company $8.5 million in legal fees by the time he announced he was thinking of joining Shumaker, Loop.
"He bragged that Shumaker was a big, national law firm with vast resources, superb I.T. capability and a big intellectual property department that would provide patent attorneys and staff resources to ALPS South from all of (Shumaker's) national offices," the suit says.
However, after Christaldi joined Shumaker, he and the firm missed the deadline for filing an international patent application on a device that heats shaving cream and cosmetics.
As a result, the patent protection for the device "is diminished in value and/or may be lost or invalidated in many foreign countries," the suit says. "The failure to file timely allowed competitors of ALPS South to freely commercialize (the device)."
In a separate malpractice suit filed July 7 in U.S. District Court in Tampa, ALPS South is suing Shumaker, Loop over its handling of the company's case against a competitor accused of infringing on patents for prosthetic liners and sleeves.
The suit stems from a 2012 trial in which ALPS South ultimately was awarded more than $15-million, but that was overturned on appeal.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate