Jury Rejects Claims Against HOA

(Chicago, IL). WSHB senior associate Zachary Fletcher secured a defense verdict for our Condominium Association client. Notably, plaintiff claimed damages of over $5.5 million and potential exposure in excess of $8-10 million. Before trial, Plaintiff issued a non-negotiable $1,350,000 settlement demand, which we flatly rejected. Zack’s analysis was validated by the jury, who deliberated for about one hour before returning with a defense verdict following the three-day trial.

Plaintiff’s Sixth Amended Complaint alleged causes of actions against his former Condominium Association, its Board of Directors, and its former President, for fraud and embezzlement; violation of the Illinois General Not for Profit Corporation Act; breach of fiduciary duty; violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; and violation of the Illinois Condominium Property Act. As a result of his allegations, Plaintiff sought monetary damages, personal injury damages for exacerbation of his chronic kidney disease and other health issues, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.

The defense filed approximately 60 Motions in Limine. Our Motion in Limine to bar Plaintiff’s nephrologist from testifying was granted since Plaintiff could not identify a basis under any of the causes of action to recover for his alleged personal injury damages. At the close of evidence, the Court directed out 4 of the 5 counts pled by Plaintiff, partly granting the defense’s Motion for Directed Verdict, with the lone remaining count being for breach of fiduciary duty.

Plaintiff ultimately was allowed to present damages for unauthorized assessment to his unit, excessive assessment to his unit, diminished value of his unit, and punitive damages. Defendants argued they were entitled to protection for their decisions under Illinois’ Business Judgment Rule, which presumes that corporate officers have made decisions their decisions in good faith and in the honest belief that their decisions are in the best interest of the company. After deliberating for under an hour, the Jury returned with a defense verdict, indicating that it found Plaintiff did not prove that Defendants breached their fiduciary duty to Plaintiff.

During post-verdict questioning of the jury, one juror indicated there was an impression by some on the jury that since the case had made it to trial there must be some merit to Plaintiff’s claims. However, Zack used targeted voir dire to obtain a favorable panel that included a tax attorney. Zack also learned during post-verdict questioning that the tax attorney juror was instrumental in dispelling the misconceived notion of merit in Plaintiff’s claims based on the posture at trial.

Congratulations to Zack and the team for their hard work! Yet another great result from the Chicago office and the WSHB team!

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