Former clients of personal injury law firm Kisling, Nestico and Redick have sued, alleging the firm took kickbacks from other companies and charged clients for investigations that never happened.
The lawsuit was filed by three former clients: Member Williams, of Wadsworth; Naomi Wright, of Akron; and Matthew Johnson, of Akron. The suit was originally filed by Williams in September, but was amended March 22 to include the other two plaintiffs and documents provided by former employees of the Copley-based law firm.
According to the lawsuit, the firm — commonly known as KNR — entered into an agreement with a network of chiropractors to refer clients to each other. Ohio law prohibits attorneys and chiropractors from such activity, attorney Subodh Chandra said.
“KNR routinely violates these prohibitions,” Chandra wrote in a blog post about the lawsuit, “treating chiropractors to tropical vacations and basing its chiropractic referrals not on its clients’ needs, but on its own need to reward chiropractors for referring cases to the firm.”
The lawsuit also alleges KNR had a similar arrangement with Liberty Capital Funding. The company is accused of providing loans to KNR’s clients with annual interest rates of 49 percent or higher.
“Defendants rope these clients in by promising them quick cash by way of an immediate high-interest loan that defendants help to facilitate,” the lawsuit reads, “and then further abuse them by coercing them into unwanted health care, and by unlawfully diverting client funds to the chiropractors to maintain the quid pro quo relationships.”
Chandra supported his claims with what he says are internal KNR emails.
KNR owners Alberto Nestico and Robert Redick are named as defendants in the case. One of their attorneys, Brian Roof, urged a judge last week to block the public from viewing the emails because they contain “clearly confidential and proprietary information.”
“They also contain information being unlawfully obtained and disseminated by a disgruntled former employee in direct violation of his confidentiality agreements,” Roof wrote.
According to the lawsuit, KNR employees also seek out recently injured people at their homes or elsewhere in an effort to earn their business. The lawsuit alleges KNR then charges clients an “investigation fee” for seeking the clients out in the first place.
KNR attorneys on Tuesday declined to comment on the case, citing a gag order they requested and expect to be granted by Judge Alison Breaux in Summit County Common Pleas Court. In previous comments to media, the KNR attorneys denied the allegations.
In their request for a gag order, KNR’s attorneys argued Chandra was engaged in a “smear campaign” using social media to publicize the lawsuit.
“Chandra’s public statements and statements to the media have embroiled KNR in a public controversy designed to smear KNR’s reputation,” the attorneys wrote.
They added that the allegations should be contained to the courtroom.
“This case should be tried in court,” they said, “not the court of public opinion.”
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the suit. They are asking the court to declare KRN’s activities “unfair and deceptive” and to void all loans from Liberty Capital Funding. They’re also seeking damages and attorney fees.
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ and on Facebook @JournoNickGlunt .