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In a victory for two Philadelphia lawyers, a Lackawanna County jury awarded $17.3 million to the owners of a Scranton shoe business that went bankrupt in 1997 after what the owners claimed was wrongdoing on behalf of its bank, CoreStates. The 12-member jury announced its unanimous verdict Friday after nine days of trial, finding that CoreStates’ successor, Wachovia Bank, should be responsible for $10.3 million in compensatory damages and $7 million in punitive damages. The verdict concluded the damages phase of the bifurcated trial. The case, Busy Bee Inc. v. Wachovia Bank, is a lender liability lawsuit filed by a group of family-owned shoe businesses called B. Levy & Son. The plaintiffs, represented by Steven M. Coren and David Dormont of Kaufman Coren & Ress, alleged that CoreStates provided them with false information that ultimately forced them into bankruptcy, according to court documents. Specifically, B. Levy & Son claimed that the bank negligently misled it into liquidating its retail assets in 1996 and then used the liquidation as grounds for declaring the company in default on its loan agreement with the bank. In September, a different 12-member jury unanimously found CoreStates liable for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation. That jury also found the bank’s conduct toward the plaintiffs to be “outrageous,” according to the verdict sheet. At the damages phase, the defense argued that B. Levy & Son should receive only nominal compensatory damages and no punitive damages. The bank highlighted how the shoe businesses had suffered losses in the years before its demise and argued that it was worth little when the alleged wrongdoing occurred in 1996, Coren said. Read more about it in Tuesday’s Legal.

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