15:36, October 02 57 0 abajournal.com

2018-10-02 15:36:04
Jury rules for Buchalter in suit seeking as much as $150M for estate lawyer’s alleged misconduct

Jurors have found no liability by Buchalter in a lawsuit that contended the law firm was responsible for the alleged misconduct of one of its estate planning partners.

Jurors in Orange County, California, ruled for Buchalter last Thursday in a suit by the heirs of the Alta-Dena dairy empire, according to City News Service, the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a press release by Greenberg Gross, the law firm representing Buchalter.

The plaintiffs had sought damages of more than $150 million during opening statements last month. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Robert Barnes, had alleged in his opening that there was “a lot of self-dealing, a lot of concealing” by the Buchalter lawyer, J. Wayne Allen, and another lawyer representing the dairy family. Barnes claimed that Buchalter ignored “alarms” when it hired Allen.

Allen had worked for the Buchalter between 2007 and 2010. He settled with the plaintiffs for $1.25 million before trial.

The other lawyer, Raymond A. Novell, and his law firm, Berger Kahn, settled before trial in a confidential agreement, according to previous coverage by My News LA. The Daily Journal says Novell had agreed to pay $200 million, but the settlement was not collectable. Allen had worked at Berger Kahn before joining Buchalter.

A lawyer for Buchalter, Pam Webster, told City News Service that Buchalter had acknowledged Allen improperly borrowed money from the clients. “As soon as we found out about it, we forced him out,” she said.

Barnes told the Daily Journal that jurors told him he lost the case because of instructions that indicated Allen owed a duty of care only to Novell, who was his client. Barnes said he planned to appeal.

The suit had been dismissed on statute of limitation grounds, but it was revised by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in January 2017. The court said the five-year statute of limitations had not expired during voir dire because the prospective jurors were “impaneled and sworn” within the meaning of the statute. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise covered that decision.