Manatt Trial Team Secures Defense Victory in Multimillion-Dollar Breach of Contract and Fraud Lawsuit

A Manatt led by partner Robert H. Platt, obtained a complete defense verdict on March 4, 2014, on behalf of Steve Gilfenbain, owner of Stevco, Inc., one of the largest table grape growing and marketing businesses in the United States. The five-day trial culminated in a jury verdict in favor of Gilfenbain on all counts before Judge James A. Kaddo in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In April 2011, Gilfenbain sold the assets of Stevco, Inc. for a nine-figure amount to private equity group Teays River Investments, LLC. The plaintiff Gregory A. Zikos sued Gilfenbain and Stevco, Inc., claiming that the company owed the plaintiff a multi-million dollar commission for his alleged role in the sale. The claims included breach of oral contract, quantum meruit and fraud.

"We could not be more pleased to have secured this victory for our client," said Platt. "The sale of the business was quite complicated, but the legal claims were straightforward. We successfully narrowed the plaintiff's multiple causes of action to three, and were able to obtain a clear victory in each instance. We are gratified that the judge and jury found no merit to these claims against our client."

After the five-day jury trial, the Manatt defense team, which included associate Reid Davis, filed a motion for nonsuit as to the fraud cause of action and as to the claims alleged against Gilfenbain in his individual capacity. The oral contract claim against Stevco went to the jury and, after an hour of deliberations, the jury returned a complete defense verdict. The judge ruled in the defendants' favor as a matter of law as to the remaining quantum meruit claim.

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