2011 Highlights

The firm enjoyed another busy year of litigation and trial work, with a special emphasis on insurance coverage and complex litigation. Some highlights:

Family Dispute Over Fine Art Collection

A famous collection of classical Chinese artwork was at the center of a hotly contested family dispute, in a federal lawsuit overseen by United States District Court Judge Michael Ponsor. The case included three separate lawsuits and involved family members living in California, New York, Maryland, and Nevada. The twenty five year history of the case spanned the origin of the collection in mainland China, an estate in Hong Kong, an exhibition of the collection at Yale University, auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York and Hong Kong, and twenty years of correspondence between mother and son in Mandarin Chinese. The intensive litigation included lengthy briefing on personal jurisdiction, foreign estates, irrevocable gifts, and fiduciary claims. Following a year of extensive investigation and discovery, the firm filed its comprehensive motion for summary judgment, shortly after which the case was resolved at mediation.

Wrongful Death for Lack of a Defibrillator

The firm filed suit in Chicago, Illinois against Bally Total Fitness, representing the family of a Maryland man who died in a Bally health club for lack of an automated external defibrillator. The case’s procedural twists included two different bankruptcies. Bally moved on two separate occasions to have the case dismissed, based on unfavorable Illinois law, but the firm successfully opposed both motions. The case was resolved at mediation in the summer.

Jury Trial Victory in Insurance Coverage Case

The firm represents a number of small to mid-sized insurance companies on coverage matters. The firm represented Merrimack Mutual Insurance Company in a case of water damage resulting from a frozen pipe. In December, the case was tried to a jury in the Hampshire County Superior Court in Northampton. The jury returned its verdict in favor of the company, finding that the policyholder had failed to use reasonable care in maintaining heat at the property.

Unpaid Retirement Benefit

An employee of a multinational company doing business in Springfield was promised a retirement benefits and then fired for pursuing the benefits he’d been promised. The firm filed suit on behalf of the employee in federal court in Springfield. The defendant hired the largest employer management law firm in the world to defend the case, which was litigated over the course of two years. Following the firm’s successful opposition to the employer’s motion for summary judgment and exchange of expert actuarial reports, the matter was resolved in December.

State Licensure

The firm represented a local attorney accused of making misrepresentations to a judge while representing a plaintiff at a settlement hearing. The attorney’s license was recommended for suspension for a year by a hearing panel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. The firm took the case up on appeal to the full Board of Bar Overseers, which reversed the panel. Bar counsel appealed to a single justice of the state’s high court, the Supreme Judicial Court. The single justice upheld the decision of the full Board, allowing the attorney to remain licensed to practice. In another licensure proceeding, the firm successfully defended an engineer accused of unethical conduct.

Insurance Defense

The firm represents policyholders for a group of small to mid-sized insurers. The firm defends a variety of such cases, including standard tort claims such as slip and falls and dog bites.

Discrimination Defense

The firm defended employers accused of employment discrimination. In one case, the firm assisted a prominent local business in resolving a difficult claim; in another, the firm appealed a finding of discrimination to the full commission level of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Insurance Coverage

The firm advises and represents policyholders on claims for insurance coverage, to help clients obtain the maximum coverage under their policies, through litigation if necessary. In 2011, the firm was able to increase recovery in one case from a proposed $1.2 million settlement for a fire loss to more than $3 million. The firm also guided clients through several large property losses, to ensure maximum recovery and preservation of all rights against third parties.