Lawyer accused of malpractice, breach of duty

The trust representing the late writer-director Colin Higgins has sued attorney Barry Hirsch for failing to properly represent his interests in the “9 to 5″ stage musical.

Colin Higgins Prods. filed suit on Jan. 14 against Hirsch and his law firm in L.A. County Superior Court, accusing Hirsch of legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. The trust seeks damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Among the many charges in the filing: Hirsch failed to adequately secure Higgins’ rights to a live stage show from Patricia Resnick, the original scribe for the movie, and failed to advise the trustee in 2006 that the firm was representing Resnick at the time she was writing the book for “9 to 5: The Musical.”

When the trustee asked how such a musical could be mounted without stage rights from Higgins Prods., Hirsch supposedly stated, “It may not be ethical, but it is legal.”

According to the suit, Higgins, best known for penning “Harold and Maude,” inked his deal with Fox to rewrite Resnick’s “9 to 5″ screenplay in 1979. Hirsch represented the writer-director and his shingle on various entertainment matters, including that contract.

Before Higgins died in 1988, his legal team created a trust in his name. In 1992, the lawsuit states, Hirsch declined to rep the trust in future projects, including a potential stage musical of “Harold and Maude,” but did not terminate rights to old deals, including that for “9 to 5.”

According to the suit, the trust did not receive a copy of the original writer deal until June 13, when its lawyers, Neville and Douglas Johnson of Johnson & Johnson obtained it from Fox. It was only then that the trust discovered that Hirsch’s firm represented Resnick on the “9 to 5″ musical and promptly severed its dealings with Hirsch’s firm over the work.

Attorneys subsequently discovered that Hirsch and his legal team never properly secured Higgins’ stage rights from Resnick. Higgins, the suit states, made significant contributions to the project with his writing and direction.

However, he did not receive “appropriate” credit for its debut. The trust has not received any compensation for the tuner, for which Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics.

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