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Attorney fees linger after last shareholder lawsuit

Chloe Murdock//November 17, 2022//

Attorney fees linger after last shareholder lawsuit

Chloe Murdock//November 17, 2022//

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Though a dispute between former company directors and the companies that spun off from them ended in 2017, the U.S. District Court of Missouri Eastern District ordered the company of one of the former directors to pay $78,000 in attorney fees on Nov. 7.

In 2013, Larry Rice of Washington, Missouri sued Interfood as well as company leaders Dirk Neerhoff, Frank van Stipdonk and two others at Interfood for breach of contract and conspiracy. He claimed more than $3 million in damages for breaking a shareholder agreement. Interfood, van Stipdonk and Medcalf filed a counterclaim against him, stating that the parties in a prior 2000 suit in Franklin County that ended in a 2011 settlement agreement resolving the disputes, in which Rice had agreed not to sue them.

According to Rice’s 2013 complaint, Rice and the current listed president of DF Ingredients, Michel Husmann, as well as van Stipdonk made up the Interfood board of directors.

By 2015, Rice’s counsel Josh Schindler of The Schindler Law Firm in St. Louis left the case. Schindler declined to comment, but his 2015 motion to withdraw states, “Plaintiff wishes to pursue certain legal avenues without representation at this time, and consents to this withdrawal.” Rice is not an attorney.

A team of attorneys from Armstrong Teasdale represents the defendants. In 2017, the court entered in favor of the defendants and against Rice, and the defendants were awarded $78,496.74 in attorney fees. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. The defendants wrote to the company calling for it to garnish Rice’s wages for the same amount. DF Ingredients did not respond.

On Oct. 20 of this year, Judge Henry Edward Autrey issued an opinion and order for DF Ingredients to pay the garnishment with post-judgment interest of $4,462.49 since March 10 of this year, which will accrue $2.59 per day until it is paid.

The company never responded, and Autrey issued the default judgment on Nov. 7. The next day, Rice filed a motion for relief from paying the attorneys’ fees, claiming that the 2017 judgment was void.

Armstrong Teasdale attorney Amy T. Ryan submitted a Nov. 10 letter asking the court to reject Rice’s claims that the 2017 judgment could not be enforced.

“… the Judgment Creditors respectfully request that the court deny plaintiff’s motion, allow them to proceed to collect their award, award them their attorney’s fees as a sanction for having to respond to this motion, and grant further such orders as the Court deems just and proper in the premises,” Ryan wrote.

The case is Rice v. Interfood et al., 4:13CV1171.

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