ST. LOUIS • The Moser & Marsalek law firm this week filed for bankruptcy protection, in part to stave off eviction from its offices at 200 North Broadway.
Founded in 1925, the law firm said 19 of its 29 attorneys had departed in the past two years, and the firm took steps to reduce its leased office space in downtown St. Louis, according to a motion filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Missouri’s Eastern District.
While the firm said in court records that it had reached an agreement with the building’s previous owner to reduce its lease space, it was unable to do so with the current owner – 200 North Broadway Holdings LLC. The new landlord “refused to negotiate any reduction in the amount of space” leased by Moser & Marsalek, the firm said in court papers.
A petition for rent and eviction is pending in St. Louis Circuit Court. Moser’s Chapter 11 filing on Monday effectively stayed the state court case. Both sides were to appear in St. Louis Circuit Court on Tuesday.
“This Chapter 11 filing is purely a group of lawyers protecting their clients,” said Eric Peterson, an attorney with the firm Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, who is representing Moser & Marsalek. “The firm is financially sound and continues to house some of the best lawyers in St. Louis.”
He said it was unusual that the new landlord would be unwilling to afford the Moser firm the time it needed to “transition to another location.”
But Robert Striler, attorney for 200 North Broadway Holdings, said Moser & Marsalek had not paid rent for several months, resulting in legal action.
In its April 13 petition for rent and possession, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, 200 North Broadway Holdings alleged the Moser firm owed $140,880.07. The amount reflected the rents and other charges allowed by the lease.
The petition asserts that 200 North Broadway made “repeated demand” for payment and that the Moser firm “has failed and refused” to pay the amount it owes and “is thereby in breach of the lease.”
Striler said the landlord, 200 North Broadway, is prepared to file a motion to lift the stay order to the pending petition for rent and possession.
In its bankruptcy filing Moser & Marsalek states it has 50 to 99 creditors with liabilities between $1 million and $10 million. The filing claims it has assets between $1 million and $10 million.
On its website, the firm traces its history to founder W. Edwin Moser, who began the practice in 1925 as a defense lawyer for Zurich General Accident and Liability Insurance Company. John S. Marsalek joined the firm five years later.
“Since then, Moser & Marsalek, P.C. has been privileged to list almost every major St. Louis area insurance company among our clients,” the website says.