First District Court of Appeal Upholds Verdict in $50 Million Dollar Private Funding Case

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Hopkins & Carley Team Lands Appellate Victory

Hopkins & Carley Attorney, Jeff Essner

Hopkins & Carley Attorney, Jeff Essner

The First District Court of Appeal today handed Mehrdad Elie, and the Hopkins & Carley team that successfully litigated his case at trial, another victory. In a unanimous decision, the panel of three veteran Justices of the California Court of Appeal found that the jury correctly determined the accounting of approximately 50 million dollars worth of complex business transactions. In upholding the lower court’s judgment, the Court of Appeal today upheld one of the 25 largest jury verdicts awarded in California that year.

Today’s decision relates back to a month-long jury trial before San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie S. Weiner (Elie v. Smith CIV 471364) in late 2009. On August 3, 2009, a jury found former Alliance Bancorp Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Smith liable for damages to former Alliance Bancorp Chief Executive Officer Mehrdad Elie for a series of investments and private loans made to the now defunct business back in early 2007.

Mr. Elie had initiated his case in March of 2008, demanding recovery of monies he had advanced on behalf of defendant Smith to mortgage giant Alliance Bancorp between February and July of 2007. The two had built Alliance Bancorp together over the preceding 18-year period. According to court documents, Elie contended that when all advances and credits made and received by Smith and Elie were accounted for, Elie was owed just under 6 million dollars by Smith. Smith denied Elie’s claims and argued that instead she was owed at least 10 million dollars (with no offset owed to Elie). Although there was no written document memorializing the agreement between Smith and Elie, the jury voted in favor of the Elie’s theory in its entirety. Once court-awarded interest was included, damages of $17,302,519 were awarded to plaintiff Elie, and an offset of $11,488,067 was awarded to Smith, resulting in a net award to Elie of $5,814,452.

On appeal Elie selected the same team of Hopkins & Carley attorneys that represented him at trial, including appellate and complex litigation attorneys Jeffrey Essner and Allonn Levy.

“We are extremely pleased for Elie,” said Essner after the much anticipated opinion was issued. “Our client was looking for fairness in this case – we asked the jury for an award between $5 and $6 million after the offsets were accounted for; they gave us exactly what we sought and now the court of appeal has affirmed that decision,” said Essner. “Whenever you deal with complex cases, it is always a challenge to get the information across – first to the jury and then if you are handling an appeal – to the justices who review the jury’s decision,” said Levy who argued the case to the panel of Justices in the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. “I’m very pleased that the Justices were able to correctly navigate both these complicated business transactions and the myriad of legal issues raised by Ms. Smith’s very capable appellate counsel,” said Levy. “I have always thought this was about principle for our client,” said Essner after the win, “I think the justices today delivered the final pronouncement of justice that Elie was seeking.”

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Christina Campbell
Hopkins & Carley
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