Otterbourg Litigators Rapidly Tally Three High Profile Wins for Clients

October 26, 2017

In just over one month, the Otterbourg litigation team, led by chair of the Otterbourg litigation practice, Richard G. Haddad, succeeded in convincingly winning three cases on behalf of three separate clients in matters ranging from media and entertainment to banking to mass tort litigation.

Otterbourg litigators, Haddad, Sandor Frankel and Pauline McTernan, represented the members of the legendary Lynyrd Skynrd band and their estates against a movie studio seeking to make a biopic about the band in breach of an earlier agreement among the band members about the marketing of the band’s image and likenesses. After the 1977 plane crash that killed band founders Ronnie Van Zant and Steven Gains as well as Cassie Gaines and others, the surviving members of the band had reunited for a tribute tour in 1987.  Following that tour, the band and the estates of its founders reached an agreement about future marketing that was approved in a 1988 consent order by the court. 

In a bench trial in front of Judge Sweet of the Federal court in the Southern District of New York on August 28, 2017, Haddad successfully argued that the proposed movie about the band breached the 1988 consent order. Not only was the firm successful in winning the trial to block the production of the movie on behalf of its clients, but the judgment for its clients included the requirement that the movie studio pay its clients’ attorneys’ fees. The decision can be found here.

The firm won a significant victory for lenders in the case of PNC Bank, National Association et al. v. Dana Transport Inc.  An article describing the decision can be found here.  The firm represented Wells Fargo, the agent for a syndicate of banks including PNC, that had provided financing to Dana Transport.  The borrower, Dana Transport, had sued the banks for violations of the RICO statutes.  After extensive negotiations between the lenders and the borrower, the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed but not until Wells Fargo had incurred significant legal expenses. 

Otterbourg prevailed on behalf of its lender clients in seeking an order from the court allowing the banks to pursue claims for their legal expenses on the basis of the indemnification clause in the loan documents. While the borrower argued that the indemnification clause did not apply to disputes between borrowers and lenders, but only to third party claims against the lenders, after more than an hour of arguments, on September 22, 2017, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams denied the borrowers’ motion to dismiss the banks’ claims for indemnification finding that the contract clearly included Dana indemnifying lenders for “any claim, litigation, proceeding or investigation.”

In a case arising out of the 1982 bankruptcy of John-Manville Corp.--which resulted from litigation for harm caused by the company’s production of products that contained asbestos—Otterbourg litigators Richard Haddad and Melanie Cyganowski represented three law firms in an action to challenge the allocation of a $20 million attorneys’ fee award in the case among four law firms. The three firms represented by Otterbourg appealed a bankruptcy judge’s order splitting the award in four equal $5 million parts.  The Otterbourg clients maintained that the fourth did not do enough to justify its share.  On the basis of the firm’s arguments, in the absence of an express agreement among the firms, the federal judge determined that the equal allocation was not correct and remanded the case to the bankruptcy court to try again, in a decision on September 29, 2017 that can be read here.