Plaintiff Yngwie Malmsteen ("plaintiff") asserted claims against defendants Berdon, LLP ("Berdon"), Michael Mitnick, James Lewis and James Lewis Entertainment ("JLE") for, inter alia, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Plaintiff is a professional musician who employed defendant Lewis as his personal manager and defendant Mitnick as his business manager in the 1990s and until early 2000. Plaintiff claimed that Lewis embezzled millions of dollars from him between approximately 1995 and 2000 and that defendants Mitnick and Berdon (collectively, "defendants") enabled Lewis to do so. Plaintiff alleged that defendants acted with fraudulent intent or, alternately, in violation of their contractual and fiduciary duties.
A trial was held in mid-2008. At the close of plaintiff's case, defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) on all of plaintiff's claims. The Court granted the motion with respect to the fraud claim but allowed the breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims to go forward. At the end of the trial, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff on both of his claims. The special verdict form completed by the jury indicated that plaintiff was entitled to zero dollars on his breach of contract claim, $450,000 in damages on his breach of fiduciary duty claim, and zero dollars in punitive damages on the breach of fiduciary duty claim.
Defendants filed the instant motion seeking (i) judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(b) (ii) a new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a), or (iii) denial of the motion for a new trial conditional on plaintiff's acceptance of a remittur on damages.
After outlining the standards for Rules 50 and 59, and remittur, the Court held:
- A reasonable jury Could Have Concluded That Lewis Embezzled Money From Plaintiff
- Plaintiff's Breach of Contract Claim is Not Time-Barred
- A Reasonable Jury Could Have Concluded That Defendants Breached Their Contract With Plaintiff
- The Jury's Failure to Award Damages for Plaintiff's Breach of Contract Claim Did Not Require Vacatur of the Jury's Finding on Liability
- A Reasonable Jury Could Have Concluded That Defendants Breached Their Fiduciary Duty to Plaintiff
- The Jury's Damages Award Was Not Excessive
- Plaintiff's Summation Did Not Warrant a New Trial
For the foregoing reasons, the Court denied defendant's motions for judgment as a matter of law, for a new trial, and for remittur.