During these challenging times Russo PLLC is dedicated to preserving the health and well-being of our employees and clients. With this in mind, we have been proactive in implementing measures to support this objective. Two weeks before the stay at home order, we commenced additional daily cleaning of “high touch” locations in our office, began observing social distancing procedures, supplied our employees with personal hygiene items as well as offering the option to work remotely. We prepared to meet the challenge of home quarantine by employing seamless remote access and capability. Our stay at home order was implemented one week before it became mandatory. Team and client meetings are being conducted by phone or video conferencing. You may continue to use our phone numbers as they are all working. If you reach our voicemail, please leave a detailed message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Our firm did not furlough, layoff or reduce pay for any employee. Russo PLLC partners are absorbing the economic consequences of these circumstances. We will not take any small business loans. We wish to leave the funds for American businesses and employees who are truly in need. Looking forward to the time when all can return to the office, we are already taking measures to configure a safe, socially distanced office environment. We are in regular contact with our landlord as they have proven to be a valuable resource in disseminating information and advice on how to best handle the situation. The firm is executing this plan while adhering to federal, state, local and court guidelines. Russo PLLC will continue to provide the level of service to which our clients are accustomed.

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Stella Stolper v. Zarina Burbacki (Index No. 652352/2018; Case No. 2021-00275)

Having defeated Defendant Zarina Burbacki’s motion to dismiss the Complaint on the basis of a release provision in Plaintiff’s settlement agreement with a third party, Russo PLLC subsequently prevailed before the Appellate Division.  The First Department unanimously affirmed the order of the Supreme Court, New York County, and held that a settlement agreement which released the parties’ and their respective lawyers, agents, and others’ claims against each other, did not encompass each party’s claims against their own lawyers.   In its December 7, 2021 decision, the First Department ruled that a release may not be read to cover matters which the parties did not desire or intend to dispose of, and therefore refused to expand the release language to bar Stella Stolper’s claims against Ms. Burbacki arising out of Ms. Burbacki’s alleged misconduct while employed as Plaintiff’s attorney.  To see the decision, click here.

Stella Stolper v. Zarina Burbacki (Index No. 652352/2018)

On January 13, 2021, Russo PLLC defeated Zarina Burbacki’s motion for reargument of the denial of her motion to dismiss.  Defendant argued that the Court improperly denied her motion to dismiss on the basis of the release clause in plaintiff’s settlement agreement with a third party, because it did not address Ms. Burbacki’s role as the third party’s agent, representative or other interested party.  Rejecting this argument, the Court stated that the current litigation was centered on Ms. Burbacki’s role as plaintiff’s attorney, not on any position that defendant may have held with the third party, and reiterated its prior decision that the release clause did not bar a party’s claims against its own attorneys, agents, or representatives.  Accordingly, Justice Borrok denied the motion for reargument, holding that the Court did not overlook or misapprehend any matters of fact or law on the prior motion, and that a motion for reargument cannot be used to rehash arguments already considered and rejected or to advance alternative, new arguments. To see the decision, click here.

Stella Stolper v. Zarina Burbacki (Index No. 652352/2018)

Russo PLLC successfully defeated Zarina Burbacki’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, on the basis of documentary evidence, and on the basis of a release.  Justice Borrok held that the Mutual Release provision in a settlement agreement between Plaintiff and a third party applied to the parties and each other’s lawyers, agents, and others, and did not bar any claims by Plaintiff against her own lawyer, regardless of certain carve outs in the release provision.  Furthermore, the email submitted by defendant as purported documentary evidence did not utterly refute plaintiff’s allegations that Ms. Burbacki was hired as plaintiff’s attorney; in fact, it emphasized that Ms. Burbacki “was hired as more than an assistant.”  Similarly, Plaintiff’s cross-complaint against another third party that was submitted by Ms. Burbacki as documentary evidence failed to conclusively establish a defense to plaintiff’s defamation claim and, in fact, was “entirely consistent with the version of events described in the Amended Complaint in this action.”  Lastly, Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss Ms. Stolper’s defamation and legal malpractice claims, finding both causes of action to have been sufficiently pled, and denied Ms. Burbacki’s application for attorneys’ fees because plaintiff’s claims were not frivolous. To see the decision, click here.

Little Rest Twelve, Inc. v. Nina Zajic, et al. (Index No. 650209; Case No. 2018-20962)

Russo PLLC’s victory before the Supreme Court, New York County, which granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on its cause of action for violation of Business Corporation Law Section 720 (a)(1)(B) as against defendant Nina Zajic and its claim for unjust enrichment as against defendant David Kay, was unanimously affirmed on appeal.  The Appellate Division, First Department upheld the motion court’s application of the collateral estoppel doctrine to the issue of Little Rest Twelve’s ownership, which had been before the bankruptcy court.  The Court further held that plaintiff made a prima facie showing that millions of dollars’ worth of self-interested and otherwise wasteful transactions were effected by Zajic for her benefit and for the benefit of David Kay and Joseph Kay, determining that defendants’ “broad and unsubstantiated assertions” regarding the good faith and fairness of the transactions at issue were insufficient to raise an issue of fact as to the BCL Section 720(a)(1)(B) claim.  Finally, the Court ruled that defendants did not submit evidence to support their assertion that the expenditures at the center of plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim, including a luxury car lease and a Manhattan rental apartment, were reasonable or fair under the circumstances. To see the decision, click here.

Brunetti, et al. v. Sergeev, et al. (Index No. 653855/2015)

Russo PLLC defeated plaintiffs’ contempt motion relating to expenditures for business renovations and payments to defendants’ counsel.  Justice Schecter held that even if the renovations were outside the ordinary course of business, the decision to renovate was a matter of business judgment and did not violate any clear mandate, noting that plaintiffs did not request, and the Court did not impose, any limit on expenditures.  In its November 13, 2020 decision, the Court further ruled that no conclusive proof of defendants’ alleged self-dealing was submitted, and similarly, that there was no evidence of payments to defendants’ counsel in violation of the court’s orders.  Moreover, the Court denied plaintiffs advancement of their legal fees and found no basis for summarily awarding other relief sought by plaintiffs, noting that plaintiffs “are overreaching out of frustration with the failed settlement, which they blame on defendants,” but that relief cannot be granted without “more clarity, analytical precision, and, most importantly, legal support for relief requested.”  Finally, Russo PLLC’s motion to withdraw as counsel for the Ginza and Sergeev defendants was granted. To see the decision, click here.

Order/Judgment 655969/2019 (Dmitry Lipskerov v. Milena Adamian)

Russo PLLC successfully defeated a motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint brought by Dimitry Lipskerov against Milena Adamian to recover money based upon an alleged loan agreement.  Ms. Adamian argued that the Summary process was inappropriate given the need for extrinsic evidence and that there was no amount due to Mr. Lipskerov because he had not given consideration for the promise which had been secured through harassment.   The note presented to the court was insufficient on its face to support a judgment and Mr. Lipskerov improperly resorted to extrinsic evidence to prove the debt.  Ironically, the extrinsic evidence submitted in and of itself proved that the Mr. Lipskerov had not loaned Ms. Adamian any money; rather, he had convinced a separate business venture to co-invest $515,000.00 with Ms. Adamian into another distinct start-up venture. After oral argument, the Honorable Nancy Bannon denied the motion and dismissed the action holding that the claim was not appropriate for the summary procedure.  To see the decision click here.

TransPerfect Global, Inc. v. Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. and H.I.G. Middle Market, LLC, Case 19cv03283 (DLC)

Russo PLLC defeated H.I.G.’s and Lionbridge’s motion to dismiss TransPerfect’s lawsuit seeking $300 million in damages for misappropriation and use of trade secrets, fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and unfair competition.  Allowing 8 of 10 claims to proceed to discovery against both defendants, Justice Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the complaint adequately detailed items qualifying as trade secrets and the measures that TransPerfect had taken to secure the information.  At the core of the case is the allegation that H.I.G. was bidding to buy TransPerfect with falsely high bids to be permitted to remain in the auction with the intent to gain access to trade secrets for its portfolio company Lionbridge.  Lionbridge then allegedly used those trade secrets to unfairly compete.  Judge Cote specifically took note of the fact that Lionbridge was a not a party to the confidentiality agreements signed by H.I.G. to participate in the auction but was given access to the documents H.I.G. downloaded from the data room.  To see the decision, click here.

Cypress Partners LLC, v. Philip R. Shawe et al, Index No. 654101/2018 – JAMS Arbitration

Russo PLLC won a full dismissal on the merits for Philip Shawe after an evidentiary hearing in a court-compelled arbitration against Cypress Partners, LLC.  The panel of three arbitrators rejected Cypress’ breach of contract claim for an investment banking success fee on the ground that the retention agreement presented by the bankers did not concern the “transaction” in which Mr. Shawe purchased Elizabeth Elting’s shares of TransPerfect Global, Inc.  The panel rejected Cypress’ claim for attorneys’ fees pursuant to the retainer’s indemnification addendum finding that the cited provision was intended to cover disputes between third parties, not the parties to the contract.  To see the decision, click here.  The arbitration award was confirmed by the Supreme Court of New York, New York County.

In re: TransPerfect Global, Inc., C.A. No. 9700-CB

Russo PLLC guided TransPerfect and Philip Shawe in the vacatur of fee orders improperly obtained by Custodian Robert Pincus and Skadden Arps and, more importantly, their quest for previously elusive billing detail allegedly supporting the amounts that the court appointed officer sought directly from TransPerfect. Having positioned the battle in the public eye, the team led by Russo PLLC focused on the lack constitutional due process then-existing in the “procedures” that had been established by the Delaware Chancery Court at the request of Skadden Arps.  Ironically, the Custodian and his counsel sought to hold TransPerfect and Mr. Shawe in contempt for demanding to see the bills before having to pay them.  Much to the Custodian’s surprise, Chancellor Bouchard (under the watchful eye of the press and public) yielded to the clear precedent on the subject, effectively vacating the fee orders, compelling Skadden Arps to produce its bills, and establishing a procedure going forward to challenge the bills on proper notice.  Given the extraordinary amount of influence wielded by Skadden Arps in Delaware and Chancellor Bouchard, this result was a significant victory and a first step towards transparency. For additional information, click here and here.

UPDATE:  Under Russo PLLC’s direction locally admitted attorneys for TransPerfect successfully challenged Skadden Arps’ unreasonably broad interpretation of a court-ordered confidentiality agreement governing the production and challenges to the law firm’s bills.  The Delaware Chancery Court agreed that the redactions demanded by Skadden Arps were unreasonable and out of compliance with the court rule which favors transparency.  It also gave mediator former Chancellor William Chandler the authority to show Skadden Arp’s bills to whomever he believes is appropriate in connection with the ongoing mediation first suggested by Skadden Arps.  To see the decision click here.