Law Firm Must Pay $314K to PR Firm Hired for Discontinued Case

WASHINGTON (CN) – A Mississippi law firm must fork over $314,000 in unpaid monthly retainer fees to a publicists it hired after taking a potential controversial case related to the multistate tobacco litigation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered Jernigan Copeland & Anderson to pay Xenophon Strategies Inc. $314,000 after finding that the contract between the parties plainly states the payment is owed.

As recounted in the ruling, the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office hired Jernigan Copeland & Anderson and other law firms in 2014 “to pursue claims against a group of nationally prominent plaintiffs’ attorneys who had previously represented the State of Mississippi in litigation against . . . large tobacco companies to recover funds on behalf of the State of Mississippi for Medicaid expenses caused by smoking.”

The state ultimately decided not to go through with the litigation, but by then, Jernigan Copeland, “concerned about the public relations fallout [from] pursing the case against the plaintiffs’ attorneys … given their broad public recognition and the large sums of money involved” hired Xenophon Strategies, a pr firm to help manage the publicity.

Xenophon later sued the law firm, saying it had not been paid for public relations and legal support services it performed under the contract.

According to the ruling, the parties did not dispute that Jernigan Copeland “is liable to Xenophon in at least some amount” of money. Rather, the parties dispute whether the language of section 4.1 of the contract regarding the compensation of fees is ambiguous.

Walton granted Xenophon summary judgment, concluding that the contract was entirely unambiguous and that the pr firm performed all duties required of it.

A representative of Jernigan Copeland did not immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

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