Cook County Record

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Patent holder of amusement ride brake claims attorneys negligent, cost company $1.4 million

By Dan Churney | Mar 30, 2018

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The holder of a patent for a brake for amusement park rides is claiming in Cook County Circuit Court that its lawyers from the then-Niro firm need to pay, as they, while representing the company in a federal patent infringement suit, didn't clue the company in on opposing counsel’s warning the company might have to cover defendants' legal costs to the tune of $1.4 million.

Five Star Airport Alliance, formerly known as G&T Conveyor Co., of Tavares, Fla., filed suit March 15 against lawyers William Niro and Raymond Niro Jr.

Five Star did not specify the dollar amount it is seeking from defendants. However, the plaintiff alleged the Niro lawyers’ actions cost it $1.4 million.

Elliott Schiff | Schiff Gorman

Five Star, along with Safety Braking Corp. and Magnetar Technologies Corp., sued 21 amusement parks in 2007 in federal court. Defendants included Walt Disney Co., Six Flags, Busch Gardens and Knott's Berry Farm. The suit alleged the parks infringed plaintiffs' patent for a braking device for amusement rides.

Safety Braking pulled out of the action in 2008.

Five Star and Magnetar pressed on, represented by the Niros, then of Niro Law Ltd. in Chicago. The firm, known for pursuing patent infringement cases, dissolved in 2017 after the death of its head, Raymond Niro Sr. William is now with Niro Law Group and Raymond is with Niro McAndrews. Both firms are in Chicago.

The Milwaukee firm of Foley & Lardner, which has offices in Chicago and elsewhere, has defended the amusement parks. In 2012, Foley & Lardner wrote the Niros that if the suit was not dropped, the defendants would seek to have plaintiffs pay their legal costs, according to the Five Star complaint.

According to Five Star, Magnetar told the Niros to disregard Foley & Lardner's message. However, Five Star was allegedly not told of Foley & Lardner's communication or of Magnetar's direction to the Niros to not cave in to the threat. The suit continued.

In 2014, a federal magistrate ruled plaintiffs' patent was invalid on the grounds of “indefiniteness, failure to name all inventors and obviousness.” The magistrate also determined certain of the amusement rides named in the suit did not infringe plaintiffs' patent. Five Star was ordered to pay defendants' costs.

Five Star took the issue to federal appellate court, but lost in April 2015. More than two years later, a federal district judge ordered Five Star to fork over $1.4 million in legal costs.

Five Star noted Magnetar went bankrupt, which left Five Star holding the bag, and that in May 2017 Niro Law Ltd. went out of business. Five Star pointed out Niro Law Ltd. had not carried “professional liability insurance.” At any rate, Five Star said it would pay the judgment.

Five Star claims it would have backed out of the suit against the amusement parks, and avoided the order to foot the legal bill, if its attorneys had consulted with it about Foley & Lardner's communication. Five Star is suing the Niros on this ground, alleging the Niros were negligent and “breached their professional responsibilities” to Five Star.

The suit was filed for Five Star by Elliot Schiff, of the Chicago firm of Schiff Gorman.

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Organizations in this Story

Niro Law, Ltd.Schiff Gorman