LOS ANGELES, MAY 31 -- It was, perhaps, the only way this lawsuit could have ended.
After a 6 1/2-year legal free-for-all, the Marciano brothers, creators of Guess jeans, won back full control of that garment industry gold mine from their arch-enemies, the Nakash brothers, founders of Jordache.
But rather than give rise to unvarnished celebration Wednesday, the settlement of the slugfest only opened the door to more contention -- this time between the mercurial Marcianos and their superstar attorney, Marshall B. Grossman.
The Marcianos, who cast off at least three high-priced law firms before settling on Grossman to mastermind their case through five years of legal wrangling and two protracted Superior Court trials, turned to other powerhouse lawyers at the 11th hour to negotiate a settlement with the Nakashes.
And not only did the Marcianos charge, in the aftermath, that Grossman tried to block the settlement, they declared that they would not pay him the $10 million bounty they had promised him if he restored their control of Guess.
So, hours after the Marcianos sauntered into court singing the praises of Howard L. Weitzman, the Nakashes attorney, and wearing lapel buttons emblazoned with his name, Grossman, sources said, filed a $17 million lien against the Marcianos' proceeds from the settlement.
It was the kind of day, in other words, that Los Angeles trial lawyers, who had watched the case intently, could only term ''bizarre'' and ''incredible.''
One of the most feared trial lawyers in Los Angeles, Grossman was the victor in celebrated cases against Playboy Enterprises, movie mogul Marvin Davis and sports agent Michael Trope. Last year, he convinced a Los Angeles jury that the Nakashes had defrauded the Marcianos when they first became partners in Guess. That verdict set the stage for the trial that ended abruptly Wednesday, in which a jury was already deliberating how much the Nakashes owed the Marcianos for their misconduct.
Those successes seemed forgotten by the Marcianos, who had no good words for the lawyer they until lately could not stop praising.
''He did everything possible to derail the settlement,'' said Paul Marciano, the family spokesman and the force behind Guess's riveting ad campaigns. ''My opinion is that he wanted the verdict badly, and didn't get it.''
Grossman calmly denied the accusation, insisting that he had worked for five years to settle the dispute -- a battle waged not only in courts in Los Angeles, New York, Delaware and Hong Kong, but in criminal grand juries and the committee rooms of congressional investigators.
But there was no denying that it was two other lawyers, Richard M. Coleman and Pierce O'Donnell -- the latter fresh from winning columnist Art Buchwald's case against Paramount Pictures over the origins of ''Coming to America'' -- who struck a deal with Weitzman. Their pact returned control of Guess to the Marcianos and made a still-secret division of the $106 million in company profits that piled up during the legal warfare.
Trial lawyers say it is not unheard of for one set of lawyers to pursue settlement on a client's behalf while others are pushing for victory at trial. But it is unusual.
Stories differ. One lawyer familiar with the case said pressure from insurance companies -- which have raised objections to paying for the defense of the Nakashes and Marcianos -- pushed the two sides toward settlement. But Grossman, other attorneys said, was so intent on winning a jury verdict that he could not stand back and negotiate a compromise.
Paul Marciano said Grossman wanted both the glory of a legal victory as well as an undisputed claim to the $10 million bonus. Marciano said he offered Grossman a small bonus, but that Grossman declined it.
Weitzman, whose clients have included sports car maker John Z. DeLorean and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, said simply that O'Donnell and Coleman ''brought a different perspective to the table than Marshall did.''
For his part, Grossman declined to discuss his fee arrangements, the $10 million bonus or the filing of a lien against the Marcianos.
Instead, he claimed ''a very substantial victory,'' one nothing short of ''a miracle,'' in regaining control of Guess for the Marcianos seven years after they sold a half-interest to the Nakashes -- a half-interest sold for $4.75 million that now is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.