In lawsuits, when two parties are suing each other, it has been custom and practice for decades across the U.S. that in many instances the opposing attorneys informally exchange the suits with each other before they are formally filed with the clerk of the court.
The purpose of this long-accepted courtesy is to allow the attorneys to talk together and see if any or all parts of the parties’ lawsuits can be settled or resolved before going through lengthy and expensive litigation.
This is a key tenant that enables our civil justice system to move forward efficiently and not become bogged down in endless litigation of lawsuits that otherwise could be settled out of court.
In these instances, typically, the attorney for one or both parties get to the point where they say “it may well be in our mutual financial interests to terminate or resolve all or parts of these suits.”
A recent case in point where this happened involves Scott Morrell of Long Island’s Morrell’s Caterers, one of the largest catering services on Long Island . Importantly, in early 2012, Morrell faced three lawsuits for allegedly illegal and deceitful acts.
Background: Three Lawsuits Against Morrell Kosher Caterer
One was brought by two senior employees of his catering firm. Another was initiated by hundreds of former employees, and a third lawsuit against Morrell was brought by Long Island attorney and Morrell client, Howard Fensterman [Howard Fensterman Morrell]. Morrell is a long-time friend of Fensterman with whom Morrell had participated over the last ten years in separate, outside investments.
Specifically, according to numerous news media reports, including an article in the Long Island Press of February 16, the first lawsuit – – by two senior employees of Morrell’s catering business – – accused Morrell of deliberately bringing non – kosher food into what was supposed to be a kosher catering kitchen, thus effectively “contaminating” both the food and kitchen in violation of Jewish law. Examples of the non-kosher food introduced into the kosher kitchen by Morrell include shrimp, lobster, pepperoni, prosciutto, and sausage. Despite this, Morrell represented that the food being served at kosher events his firm was catering was in fact kosher and, as such, customers were charged more money for that.
The second lawsuit, by hundreds of former Morrell employees, accused Morrell‘scompany of, over a six year period, holding onto the service charges included in the catering contracts that were earmarked for waiters, bus staff and maitre d’s. The employees said that the caterer also demanded that they give back to Scott Morrell, personally, any cash tips they received at events catered by Morrell’s company.
The third lawsuit against Morrell, by attorney Howard Fensterman, alleges breach of contract and fraud by Morrell related to a function Fensterman hosted on May 29, 2010 — an event catered by Morrell’s firm. The suit accuses Morrell of two dishonest actions — Howard Fensterman Morrell. First, the suit accuses Morrell of charging Fensterman apremium for top – shelf brands of liquor and, instead, serving lower priced brands.Second, the suit accuses Morrell of encouraging Fensterman to pay, and receiving from Fensterman, an 18 % service charge above the cost of the affair, to assure more attentive service from the Morrell staff and a higher quality affair, without telling Fensterman that he, Morrell, was going to keep the money for himself.
Morrell Tries To “Switch The Topic” — Howard Fensterman Morrell
Howard Fensterman Morrell — In an attempt to deflect public attention from these allegations , Morrell’s response was to try to change the subject, alleging that the presentation of Howard Fensterman’s lawsuit to Morrell’s attorneys, prior to its filing in court, was an attempt to “extort” Morrell.
The facts are that Long Island attorney Steve Cohn, personally hand delivered the lawsuit to the office of Morrell’s attorneys to see if a pre-filing resolution might be achieved, avoiding the monetary and emotional cost of litigation for the parties.
Morrell’s desperate action was to cry “extortion” in the hope of diverting the attention of past clients , rabbis and congregation members from his alleged actions of breach of one of the most sacred duties of a kosher caterer — in essence, serving non-kosher food to unsuspecting clients and their guests. Morrell’s diversionary tactics were also meant to shift the media attention away from his alleged acts and to try to discredit Howard Fensterman’s good name.