Last week, Southern California business litigation firm Greenberg Gross LLP obtained a jury verdict in favor of Buchalter APC, an Am Law 200 law firm, in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by the heirs to the Alta-Dena dairy empire. The complete defense verdict, which followed 16 trial days and approximately two days of deliberation, rejected a lawsuit filed in 2010 against Buchalter and others. The heirs alleged that an estate planning attorney, who had worked at Buchalter between 2007 and 2010, engaged in various forms of misconduct relating to the dairy family’s estate plan.
Although the estate plan had already been created several years before the attorney joined Buchalter, the heirs told the jury in their opening statement that Buchalter should be held responsible for damages in the range of $150 million or more. The case included a claim for violation of RICO that, if successful, would have resulted in treble damages and an award of attorney fees. Several other defendants settled with the heirs on the eve of trial, leaving Buchalter as the only defendant at trial.
Prior to closing arguments, Buchalter won a directed verdict on the issue of punitive damages. After reviewing all of the evidence presented by both sides, the trial court concluded that Buchalter “did exactly what employers are supposed to do” when presented with a claim of misconduct against the estate planning attorney.
Partners Alan A. Greenberg and Wayne R. Gross led Buchalter’s successful defense. They were joined at trial by associates Stephanie S. Elder and Claire-Lise Y. Kutlay, and paralegal Allison Romero.
The case is Ruth McClamma Stueve, et al. v. Raymond Novell, et al.¸ Case No. 30-2010-00411651 (Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Civil Complex Division)