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150656 - Dean Altobelli v Michael W. Hartmann

Dean Altobelli,
Mark R. Granzotto
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Ingham – Manderfield, P.)
Michael W. Hartmann, Michael A. Coakley, M. Anna Maiuri, Joseph M. Fazio, Douglas M. Kilbourne, John D. Leslie, and Jerome R. Watson,
Thomas G. Kienbaum


Attorney Dean Altobelli was a senior principal in the law firm of Miller Canfield Paddock & Stone.  He sued the law firm’s individual managing directors over a dispute that arose after he received and accepted an offer to work for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama football program.  The law firm’s operating agreement contains a mandatory arbitration agreement covering any dispute, controversy or claim between the law firm and a current or former principal.  The individual defendants sought to compel arbitration and moved for dismissal of the lawsuit.  The trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in a published opinion.  The defendants filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral argument.  The Court has directed the parties to address “whether the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the operating agreement’s mandatory arbitration provision because the plaintiff’s claims are directed at the individual defendants, rather than the law firm.”  The Court also asked the parties to address any theory under which the mandatory arbitration provision covering disputes “between the Firm . . . and any current or former Principal” may properly be invoked to resolve disputes between managing principals and a former principal.