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A Florida appeals court reversed billionaire Ronald O. Perelman’s $1.58 billion jury verdict against Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. of New York in a 2-1 decision. Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. of New York, convinced a Palm Beach County, Fla., Circuit Court jury in May 2005 that Morgan Stanley & Co. conspired with Sunbeam Products Inc. of Delray Beach, Fla., to defraud a company he controlled of close to $500 million. Perelman’s victory was won in large part by the trial court’s pretrial rulings stemming from Morgan Stanley’s chronic difficulties in complying with the court’s discovery orders. These rulings effectively defaulted Morgan Stanley on every element of Coleman’s claims except for one: whether Perelman relied on the purported false statements by Morgan Stanley and Sunbeam, rather than his own legal and financial advisors, in his decision to sell Coleman to Sunbeam. But Judge Carole Y. Taylor of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach, writing for the majority, said that these rulings essentially denied Morgan Stanley its due process right to offer admissible evidence in its defense. Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. v. Coleman (Parent) Holdings Inc., No. 4D05-2606 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.)

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