The judge said Fairchild must pay some of Cheek’s legal fees because while the lawyer certified he had examined Pirri’s claims and found them reasonable, his filings “cast grave doubt on whether this assertion was made by counsel in anything approaching good faith.”
It’s not unusual for plaintiffs who file frivolous lawsuits to be ordered to cover their adversary’s legal costs, but seldom are their lawyers told to pay. The only similar example took place in 2003, said Aaron Pereira, chair of the New York City Bar Association’s patents committee.
“Assessing attorney’s fees against the parties’ counsel in patent cases is rare,” said Pereira, an attorney at Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel.
Fairchild didn’t respond to emails seeking comment and Pirri couldn’t be reached. Fairchild graduated from Georgetown Law in 2006 and practiced at Morgan & Finnegan, Loeb & Loeb and other firms before striking out on his own, according to his website.
Cheek’s troubles began shortly after appearing on Shark Tank to pitch a dating app she had patented in 2013. After watching the show, Pirri accused Cheek of stealing his idea and claimed he had talked about his business plan with his therapist, who then told Cheek, who attested she had no idea who the therapist was. Engelmayer dismissed Pirri’s claim in December, saying no reasonable juror could find in his favor.
Pirri filed a defamation suit against Cheek in New York state court. That matter is pending.
Even though she incurred $100,000 in fees defending herself from Pirri, who unsuccessfully sued her twice in federal court, Cheek is seeking only $38,000 from Fairchild for the period covering October through December 2019. Engelmayer deemed her defense lawyer’s work during that time as “completely unnecessary.”
But she’s not done with Pirri and Fairchild.
“Ms. Cheek will use all remedies available to her under the law to make herself whole again, and seek compensation for the damages she has incurred,” said attorney Imran Ansari of the firm Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins.
The cost of defending herself forced Cheek, an architect, to leave Manhattan after 25 years and return to her native Kentucky.