Michael G. Austin and Matthew Grosack
Michael G. Austin and Matthew Grosack (J. Albert Diaz)

Case: Silvia Gianoli v. Raul Gutierrez Vize

Case no: 07-9870-CA-01 (32)

Description: Breach of contract and breach of settlement agreement

Filing date: April 5, 2007

Judge: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa S. Walsh

Plaintiffs attorneys: Michael Austin and Matthew Grosack, DLA Piper, Miami

Defense attorney: George A. Minski, Law Offices of George A. Minski, Aventura

Verdict amount: $2.54 million

Details: Silvia Gianoli, a Chilean businesswoman, alleged her ex-husband, Raul Gutierrez Vize, misappropriated $2.54 million from her bank account in 2007. She alleged a contract between the two parties signed in September 2005 spelled out specific amounts of money Gutierrez was to repay Gianoli on specific dates.

Gianoli filed suit in Miami because it’s where her bank account was and where her ex-husband had homes.

Greenberg Traurig represented Gianoli for years, resolving issues of venue and jurisdiction, before the DLA Piper lawyers took over the case about 1½ years ago. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment, which were unsuccessful.

They agreed to a bench trial before Walsh rather than a jury trial.

“Because there was an international component to this, we felt South Florida was a good venue for resolving these disputes,” Austin said. “We both felt a judge as a fact finder was better suited to make this decision.”

Plaintiffs case: Gianoli did not call any expert witnesses. The three witnesses were Gianoli, Gutierrez and their son, Juan Cristobal Gutierrez. All were questioned on the issue of whether the contract was an enforceable final agreement. Gianoli testifed it was, Gutierrez testified it wasn’t, and the son’s testimony supported the court’s determination that there was an enforceable contract, according to the plaintiffs attorneys.

Defense case: The defense also called the same witnesses. The basic argument was the contract was unenforceable and simply an “agreement to agree.”

Outcome: After a three-day trial Jan. 16, 17 and 31, Walsh found for the plaintiff, awarding her $2.54 million in damages plus interest, which Gianoli expects to total up to $2 million, for a total projected award of about $4.75 million.

Comments: “I was hopeful that she would find consistent with what the facts in the law dictated, and I was pleased with the ruling and the correct outcome based on the documents and the witnesses,” Austin said.

Post-verdict: Minski said he does not intend to file any post-verdict motions. Austin said DLA Piper will use its full international resources to collect the judgment. DLA Piper will not seek attorney fees.