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An acrimonious jury trial pitting the widow of attorney Michael Kelley against her dead husband’s partner, Jim Ferraro, ended Friday with a $4.25 million verdict that both sides agree is a stinging loss for the plaintiff. “I consider it a loss and I am not happy,” said plaintiff counsel William Wuliger of Wuliger, Fadel & Beyer in Cleveland, implying his client, Lynn Kelley, will soon appeal. “In our system that is where you go when you are not happy,” Wuliger said. Attorneys Michael Kelly and Jim Ferraro built Kelley & Ferraro into a lucrative firm focused on asbestos claims. The pair enjoyed ostentatious wealth, including private jets and lavish vacation homes. Ferraro owns the Gladiators arena football team, which he recently moved to Cleveland from Las Vegas. Three months following the 2006 death of Michael Kelley from a heart attack, Lynn Kelley, also an attorney, filed suit demanding dissolution of the 15-lawyer firm and division of the assets, estimating her half at $3.5 billion. Kelley v. Ferraro, No. 06-CV-589040 (Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, Crt. of Cmn. Pleas). [Related article: " Ugly battle over an Ohio law firm"] Kelley rejected a settlement offer of $10 million during mediation, and $6.25 million on the eve of trial, said defense counsel John Climaco of Cleveland’s Climaco, Lefkowitz, Peca, Wilcox & Garofoli. “Basically, the jury brought back what Jim Ferraro testified she would be entitled to under his agreement with Michael Kelly,” Climaco said. “We had a very pleasant victory.” On April 10, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul threw out 16 of Kelley’s 17 claims. Wuliger said the one remaining claim was peripheral to his case, which was built on a signed contract between Kelley and Ferraro. Gaul threw out the contract based on the testimony of an expert retained by Kelley who, on cross-examination, said the contract was not legal because at the time it was signed, Ferraro was not licensed to practice law in Ohio. “It was a signed contract between two people that the court said was not binding and the jury could not consider it,” Wuliger said. “I don’t see how you can benefit materially from a contract, then say it was illegal and you have no duties.” Wuliger said the admissibility of the written contract will be central to any appeal.

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