Taft successfully moved to vacate a seven-figure trust arbitration award imposed in a proceeding in which the clients were represented by other counsel, and upheld the favorable result obtained for our clients in the First District Court of Appeals. On March 3, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court declined the claimants’ efforts to overturn our clients’ victory, ending years of litigation.
The parties, family members with interests in family trusts and business interests, settled trust litigation with a settlement agreement that required arbitration of any disputes under the settlement agreement. At arbitration, the lawyer-arbitrator imposed substantial personal liability for alleged breach of the settlement agreement against Taft’s clients. Taft filed suit to vacate the improper award on the grounds the arbitrator had exceeded his authority under the agreement to arbitrate. Although arbitration awards are famously difficult to overturn because of the deference Ohio law affords to arbitrators, even where their decisions are wrong and subject to reversal in ordinary litigation, Taft was successful in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.
The claimants appealed to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s decision vacating the improper award. Claimants then sought review by the Ohio Supreme Court. As mentioned above, the Ohio Supreme Court recently declined to accept jurisdiction to review this case.
This win was brought about by Taft’s strength in appellate law, arbitration and trust litigation. Cincinnati partners Julia Meister and Russell Sayre advised on trust and arbitration issues, respectively, while Cincinnati partner Aaron Herzig argued the appeal. Cincinnati associates Philip Williamson and Brian Morris supported the team.
Julia Meister, a fellow in The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel who began her career at Taft in 1995, heads Taft’s wealth transfer litigation practice. Russell Sayre is chair of Taft’s litigation practice. Over the course of his nearly 30-year career, he has advised individuals and businesses in commercial litigation and arbitration. Aaron Herzig is a leader of Taft’s appellate practice and counsels clients regarding complex litigation and appellate matters.