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Legal Ethics

BigLaw Firm Hit with Big-Bucks Sanction for Pursuing Billionaire’s ‘Ridiculous’ Claim

Posted Jun 16, 2010 1:50 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A BigLaw firm and another well-known partnership face a likely seven-figure sanction for pursuing what a New Jersey judge described as a "ridiculous" frivolous claim on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman.

Perelman, represented by Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison along with Lowenstein Sandler, had contended that his 85-year-old former father-in-law, Robert Cohen, promised Perelman's ex-wife, before she died in 2007, that she would get half of his estate.

But it soon became clear there was no appropriate basis for a lawsuit to be pursued against Cohen, ruled Superior Court Judge Ellen Koblitz after a June 9 hearing. A copy of the 152-page transcript (PDF) is provided by the New York Law Journal in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

"No competent attorney could have missed the frivolous nature of this promise claim once the unhelpful testamentary documents were received," said Koblitz during the hearing. "There was no legal or factual basis for the plaintiffs to proceed with their amended complaint given the evidence they had and the state of the law in New Jersey."

She ordered Paul Weiss and the Lowenstein firm to pay Cohen's legal fees and costs, which defense counsel estimate to total several million dollars.

Cohen was represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

A July hearing is scheduled to determine the amount that Cohen is owed by the two opposing law firms.

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