Jury Says No Back Wages for Former First-Year Associate Pfeiffer November 14, 2023
HOUSTON – It took a Harris County jury only an hour, including lunch, to find that Justin Carl Pfeiffer, a former associate at the Houston firm of Berg & Androphy, was not owed any of the back pay he so contentiously claimed.
At trial, Mr. Pfeiffer demanded $50,000 in back pay. He claimed he was still working a few weeks after AZA’s client David Berg asked him to resign in 2018. Mr. Pfeiffer, now a partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, claimed he had a contract that allowed this. But the jury in Harris County District Judge Cory Don Sepolio’s court found there was no such contract.
The jury witnessed the acrimony between the parties. There was some name calling, and the judge sometimes had to cool things off during the trial.
David Berg, co-founder of Berg & Androphy with the late Joel Androphy, testified he demanded Mr. Pfeiffer resign in September 2018 because Mr. Pfeiffer, who had been at the firm about a year, was “not trustworthy and an embarrassment.”
While at the firm, Mr. Pfeiffer wrote a letter to the opposing counsel in litigation in both Texas and California involving gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi. In the letter, Mr. Pfeiffer said he was a member of both the Texas and California bars and found both states asinine. Mr. Berg said that could hurt their case if seen by a judge or juror. Mr. Berg called for Mr. Pfeiffer’s resignation.
Mr. Pfeiffer claimed that because he was still listed on the California case and was at the time the firm’s only lawyer licensed in that state and made one filing, he should have been paid until his name came off that case because he was under contract.
AZA lawyer Paul Turkevich argued in closing that Mr. Pfeiffer was “trying to create an employment contract long after he was terminated.”
“You would be the first jury in the United States to find that filing something in court somehow creates an employment contract with your law firm,” Mr. Turkevich, who tried the case with John Zavitsanos and Alex Dvorscak. told jurors.
Mr. Dvorscak told Law 360 that “Pfeiffer’s allegations in this case were just so bizarre and so outlandish.” He said Mr. Berg wanted a public trial to expose what he was doing.
The case was covered by Texas Lawbook and Law 360, both of which require subscriptions. Texas Lawbook coverage includes “Jury Says Berg & Androphy Cofounder Owes Nothing to Ex-Associate” and “‘I Wanted Him Gone,’ Berg & Androphy Co-Founder Testifies in Suit by Ex-Associate.” Law360 coverage includes “Houston Firm Doesn’t Owe Ex-Atty Back Wages, Jury Finds” and “Ex-Atty Was ‘An Embarrassment’ To Houston Firm, Jury Told.’
The case is Pfeiffer, Justin Carl vs. Berg, David Howard in the 269th court case number 2022-60439.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2023 as among the best in Texas in commercial law and intellectual property; has been listed by Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for 12 years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer three times, including for 2021; and was previously dubbed a Texas Powerhouse law firm by Law360.