Ansell Grimm & Aaron 2021 Litigation Roundup
As the world continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, and millions of small and mid-sized businesses continue to be confronted with unprecedented challenges, the attorneys in Ansell Grimm & Aaron’s Litigation Department assisted the Firm’s clients in protecting their businesses and livelihoods. Led by co-chairs Lawrence Shapiro and Joshua Bauchner, and assisted by attorneys Barry Capp, Anthony D’Artiglio, Stefan Erwin, Rahool Patel, Seth Rosenstein, and Ashley Whitney, the Department is pleased to share its numerous successes.
Bankruptcy Litigation & Debtor/Creditor Matters
Ansell Grimm & Aaron successfully compelled conversion of a meritless Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 and convinced the Court to vacate an extension of the automatic stay to principal’s of the Debtor company. Debtor filed a Chapter 11 petition in the District of New Jersey just before it and its principals were scheduled to face trial in the Western District of Missouri on multi-million dollar fraudulent scheme related to the sale of a business. Led by Joshua S Bauchner and Anthony J. D’Artiglio, the firm successfully convinced the Court to vacate an extension of the automatic stay to the principals of Debtor who sought to utilize the Bankruptcy to shield themselves from liability. Furthermore, we vigorously opposed confirmation of a meritless Plan of Reorganization, culminating in Debtor voluntarily converting its Chapter 11 reorganization to a Chapter 7 liquidation requiring the appointment of a Trustee to pursue our client’s and other creditors’ interests. As a result, the adversary complaint and related Bankruptcy matters were dismissed in New Jersey permitting the action to proceed to trial in Missouri.
Breach of Contract Litigation
The Ansell Grimm & Aaron team continued its efforts to recover sums owed to its clients in connection with finance agreements and contracts for the provision of certain services. We doggedly pursued our clients’ counterparties who absconded with loaned funds and enjoyed the benefit of services rendered, resulting in substantial recoveries and settlements for our dedicated and hard-working clients. By way of example, in one action brought on behalf of a trucking insurance agency that guaranteed payments for its client, the insured failed to make millions of dollars in payments under its finance agreement and created a new entity to hide its property and assets from collection. We aggressively tracked down the fraudulently transferred assets, brought the insured’s owner and his new entity into the action, and secured a favorable settlement prior to trial.
Partnership Dispute Litigation
The firm successfully obtained temporary restraints enacted to avoid continued irreparable harm to our client in a derivative action asserting claims against our client’s former business partners for, inter alia, unfair competition, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty, based on their acts of engaging in direct competition with their shared business and allowing their family members to use the company’s proprietary information to siphon clients and profits from the business. The temporary restraints prevented all competition with our client’s business and provided the leverage necessary to negotiate a dissolution of the business which allowed our client to extricate himself and pursue independent ventures.
Real Estate Litigation
The firm works closely with real estate professionals across the region to protect their rights and put practices in place to minimize potential liability. In an action filed earlier this year on behalf of a Hudson County-based real estate broker, the Firm sued a national real estate developer after the failure to pay a referral fee offered under the developer’s agreement with local brokers. These efforts resulted in our client recovering a substantial portion of the referral fee owed to it, and the same broker subsequently engaged our team to revise their agreements used with clients — and to speak with the broker’s team of agents about mitigating risk and general best practices.
In addition to serving as a Financial Industry Resolution Authority (FINRA) Dispute Resolution Services arbitrator, associate Seth Rosenstein also practices before FINRA arbitration panels. In an arbitration filed against a national broker-dealer, the Firm sought an award requiring removal of incorrect and misleading information set forth on the broker-dealer’s Form U5 issued for our client, and for the expungement and removal of the information from FINRA’s Central Registration Depository and BrokerCheck system. Our efforts resulted in the broker-dealer issuing an amended Form U5 that removed the incorrect and misleading information, correcting an injustice that falsely besmirched our client’s reputation.
Police Benevolent Association Matters
Earlier this year, Attorney Ashley V. Whitney filed an appeal with the New Jersey Supreme Court challenging an opinion from the Appellate Division which upheld the termination of a police officer with no prior discipline for alleged violations of the Criminal Justice Information System through his use of full-disclosure vehicle registration searches despite the police department’s failure to identify a single full-disclosure search conducted without justification. The Appellate Division’s decision may have a lasting impact upon the law enforcement community as the performance of searches by police has not been significantly addressed by New Jersey Courts since the decision in State v. Donis, 157 N.J. 44 (1998). The decision is especially pertinent to the issues facing police as it comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter of In re AG Law Enf’t Directive Nos. 2020-5 & 2020-6, 2021 N.J. LEXIS 486 (June 7, 2021), which upheld the New Jersey Attorney General’s Directives requiring the release of the names of police officers who receive major discipline.
Ms. Whitney continued her prior practice of the representation of police officers as a member of the PBA Legal Protection Plan at the Firm’s Woodland Park office, which included the defense of a high-ranking correctional police officer served with inflated disciplinary charges seeking termination. Following a departmental hearing and the presentation of favorable witness testimony, the employer decreased the proposed penalty from termination to suspension and we are awaiting a final decision.
Class Action Litigation
Ansell Grimm & Aaron successfully obtained dismissal of a nationwide class action in the District of New Jersey for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff brought claims against related to beauty products against the seller, shipper, and a host of individuals and entities. We filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(1) asserting the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction as a result of a pre-litigation, full refund offer by our client to the aggrieved consumer. The Court agreed that the full refund offer made in the ordinary course of business operated to moot Plaintiff’s claims, and dismissed the entire action.
Public Entity Litigation
Ansell Grimm & Aaron successfully secured summary against Plaintiff on a multi-million dollar claim against the City of Bayonne, wherein Plaintiff alleged that Bayonne discriminated against him when it condemned and subsequently demolished a rental property he owned because it was unsafe. We successfully convinced the Court that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations, that the demolition did not constitute a taking within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. 1983, and that Plaintiff’s tort claims could not be asserted against a municipality as a matter of law, leading to dismissal of the entire case.
Ansell Grimm & Aaron Welcomes Lateral Hire to Woodland Park Office
We are pleased to announce Stefan J. Erwin, Esq. has joined Ansell Grimm & Aaron. Mr. Erwin is a Trial Attorney who came to Ansell from an established Newark practice where he represented the largest cities in New Jersey. Mr. Erwin brings nearly a decade of experience to the firm specializing in complex commercial litigation, criminal defense, appellate practice, labor and employment law, public entity, and civil rights. Mr. Erwin graduated from Rutgers University with dual degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice, and then attended Rutgers Law School where he interned for the Honorable Noel Hillman in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable James Hely, J.S.C. of the Superior Court Law Division in Union County. He has taught public school children a course in Constitutional Law, founded a local community garden, and sat on the board of a charter school. Mr. Erwin has received several favorable jury verdicts for his clients in the Public Defender’s Office where he litigated cases from inception through appeal.
Best of the Best
It is with great pleasure that Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC has been named “Best of the Best” Law Firm in the 2021 Official Community Choice Awards published by the Asbury Park Press. This recognition is greatly appreciated as it was not determined by the Bar or another professional organization, but rather by the community we serve on a daily basis.