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SINGLE CLAIM AGAINST WEIL GOES FORWARD NEW YORK — A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has dismissed a legal malpractice claim against Weil, Gotshal & Manges but permitted a claim for breach of fiduciary duty to go forward. Annette and Randi Fischer, principals of Fashion Boutique of Short Hills Inc., had charged that Weil, Gotshal had been conflicted in representing them in a suit against Fendi USA Inc. because the firm also represented Prada USA, which acquired a substantial interest in Fendi during the representation. Unlike their malpractice claim, the Fischers’ breach of fiduciary duty claim did not require a showing of proximate causation of damage, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe wrote in Weil, Gotshal & Manges v. Fashion Boutique, 100630/03. Rather, they needed only to show that the alleged conflict was a significant factor in the alleged economic loss. “The litigation business which Weil Gotshal was receiving from Prada, beginning in late 1999, could arguably have adversely affected the quality of Weil, Gotshal’s representation of Fashion Boutique in its action against Fendi, given Prada’s acquisition of an ownership interest in the parent company of Fendi, also in late 1999,” the judge wrote. The Fischers sued Weil, Gotshal for $15.6 million in a counterclaim action following a suit by the law firm for $2.7 million in unpaid legal bills. — The New York Law Journal JURY LETS FORD OFF HOOK IN ROLLOVER SUIT ATLANTA — Lawyers on both sides of Vittorio and Rosanna DiMaso’s product liability case against Ford Motor Co. fought ferociously for leverage under a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision urging moderation in punitive damages. They fought needlessly, as it turned out. Jurors returned defense verdicts on all counts after listening to a monthlong trial before Cobb Superior Court Judge Toby Prodgers. The DiMasos had accused Ford of designing and manufacturing a flawed sport utility vehicle — the 1992 Explorer — and failing to inform the public that certain conditions would cause it to flip in DiMaso v. Ford. In addition to product liability claims, the DiMasos claimed breach of express and implied warranties, and failure to warn drivers of the dangers they faced in taking the Explorer out on the road. Ford, they claimed, knew about the SUV’s defects and did nothing about them. The DiMasos sought damages for their medical bills, the cost of past and future health care, and mental and physical pain and suffering. They also sought punitive damages for what they called Ford’s “reckless and willful” behavior and “conscious indifference to the consequences of its actions.” The DiMasos’ case attracted some national attention because it was the first to take place against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell. In that decision, the justices called for “vigorous judicial scrutiny of punitive damages awards.” — Fulton County Daily Report

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