Lengthy Battle Ends in Victory
In a lengthy litigation battle lasting five years, the court entered judgment in favor of the firm's clients, and against plaintiffs, after a two week trial. Manning & Kass San Francisco managing partner Michael L. Smith, partner and lead counsel Jennifer L. Supman, and senior counsel Frank M. La Fleur worked with a dedicated team of paralegals and support staff to garner the victory.
The firm's clients were the target defendants and cross-defendants in seven different operative complaints and cross-complainants; that contained causes of action for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of express and implied warranties, declaratory relief, equitable indemnity, express indemnity, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and 17200. The firm's clients were the owners and sellers of a piece of commercial property in downtown San Francisco, and one of them also acted as a dual agent representing the sellers and the buyers of the subject property. Plaintiffs and cross-complainants sought roughly $35 million in actual damages, in addition to treble that amount in punitive damages, plus millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees and costs.
By the time the case went to trial, all causes of action were thrown out on summary judgment, save and except 17200. Four of the seven complaints and cross-complainants against the firm's clients were summarily adjudicated in the clients favor, and judgment was entered in favor of the firm's clients, against the Limited Liability Company that acquired the subject property (“Buyer LLC”), in the amount of $1.1 million representing the attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending the complaint and cross-complaint brought by the Buyer LLC. Only three of seven plaintiffs remained, and their damages were limited to their initial investment in purchase of the property, which totaled $2.45 Million, plus interest. That was a far cry from the potential $80 million in exposure the clients were previously faced with.
After several different attorneys, by the time of trial, cross-complainants were represented by a very high profile and experienced trial lawyer, who was a former federal prosecutor. After a contentious trial, the court took the matter under submission and on August 2nd, issued a ruling that closely paralleled the ruling that Ms. Supman urged the court to issue in her closing argument. The court found that the 17200 claim was barred by the statute of limitations, and even if the court were to get to the merits of the claim, it would fail under the merits as well. The court invited defendants to seek costs as the prevailing party.