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Ignelzi v. Ogg, Cordes, Murphy and Ignelzi, LLP

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 19, 2017

PHILIP A. IGNELZI, INDIVIDUALLY, PHILIP A. IGNELZI AND MARIANNE IGNELZI, HUSBAND AND WIFE
v.
OGG, CORDES, MURPHY AND IGNELZI, LLP; GARY J. OGG; SAMUEL J. CORDES; MICHAEL A. MURPHY, INDIVIDUALLY; MICHAEL A. MURPHY AND REBECCA MURPHY, HUSBAND AND WIFE; OGG, MURPHY, AND PERKOSKY, LLP; JOHN D. PERKOSKY; AND ESQUIRE REALTY ASSOCIATESAPPEAL OF: GARY J. OGG, MICHAEL A. MURPHY AND REBECCA MURPHY, OGG, MURPHY AND PERKOSKY, LLP, AND JOHN D. PERKOSKY

         Appeal from the Order Entered May 20, 2016, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division at No(s): GD 11-022449

          BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., BOWES, and STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          STRASSBURGER, J.

         Gary J. Ogg, Michael A. Murphy, Rebecca Murphy, John D. Perkosky, and Ogg, Murphy, and Perkosky, LLP (OMP) (collectively, Appellants) appeal from the discovery order entered May 20, 2016, which granted in part and denied in part their motion for protective order.[1] After review, we quash this appeal.

         This litigation arises from a dispute among Phillip A. Ignelzi, his former law firm, Ogg, Cordes, Murphy, and Ignelzi, LLP (OCMI), and partners, Ogg, Cordes, and Michael Murphy. In November of 2009, Ignelzi was elected as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Accordingly, he could no longer be a partner of OCMI and the law firm began dissolution.

         Ogg, Murphy, and an associate, Perkosky, formed a new law firm, OMP. Cordes formed his own, separate law firm. The parties attempted to negotiate a settlement as to what the former partners would pay Ignelzi, but they were unable to reach an amicable resolution. Thus, on October 31, 2011, Ignelzi filed the instant lawsuit alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and violations of the Uniform Partnership Act (UPA), 15 Pa.C.S. §§ 8301-8365.[2]

         As this Court pointed out previously, "[t]he heart of the parties' dispute in this case is Ignelzi's demand for his partnership share of any contingent fee cases that conclude after the dissolution of OCMI." Ignelzi v. Ogg, Cordes, Murphy and Ignelzi, LLP, 78 A.3d 1111, 1114 (Pa. Super. 2013) (Ignelzi I).[3] Ignelzi sought discovery and requested the following, in relevant part.

1. Client lists for all claims or cases that the partnership of [OCMI], or any of its partners, had accepted, or had begun to review for acceptance, as of December 31, 2009.
2. Ledgers, books, records and client cards for any claims or cases that the partnership of [OCMI] or any of its partners, had accepted or begun to review for acceptance, as of December 31, 2009.
3. Bookkeepers' summaries for 2006 through 2009.

Ignelzi's Brief at Exhibit A (Plaintiffs' First Request for Production of Documents at 6-7).[4]

         In response to the discovery request, Appellants filed a motion for protective order. In that motion, Appellants argued that based upon this Court's prior rulings, Ignelzi was not entitled to the aforementioned information. Specifically, they argued that this Court's "December 2014 [order] essentially sets up a date-certain valuation being the date [Ignelzi] left OCMI." Motion for Protective Order, 9/1/2015, at ¶ 18. Appellants went on to argue that based on prior holdings of this Court,

the value of work performed by Judge Ignelzi had no ascertainable value as of that date and discovery related to such matters is not warranted as it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, not likely to lead to discoverable material, violated the law of the case and would compel OMP to violate the Rules of Ethics. Further given the confidential client information at risk, [Appellants] simply cannot turn over all files as [Ignelzi's] pending discovery requests demand.

Id. at ¶ 20.[5]

         After argument, the trial court issued a ruling which granted in part and denied in part Appellants' motion for protective order. The order provided:

It is ORDERED that the motion[ is] granted in part and denied in part as follows:
1. The motion[ is] denied to the extent that, to the extent not provided previously, Ogg, Murphy and Cordes shall produce to [] Ignelzi, the documents identified in paragraphs [1 and 3], within 30 days after the date this order is entered.
2. Having concluded that, because of the breadth and all-encompassing nature of the request contained in paragraph 2 [], the motion[ is] granted with respect to the documents requested in paragraph 2 [].
3. To ensure confidentiality, Ignelzi shall redact the documents to be produced pursuant to this order before being shared with counsel. Ignelzi shall assign a number to each client and substitute the number in place of the client's name, with the number to be used in place of the client's name in further proceedings. All documents and information produced or disclosed shall remain confidential, shall be used only as necessary in this litigation, will not be filed of record without prior court approval, and will be disclosed only to Ignelzi, Cordes, Murphy and their counsel, and to no other person without prior court approval.
4. The court is of the opinion that this order involves a controlling question of law as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from this order will ...

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