Judge Fisher and a “Leviathan of a Case”

Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited v. SAC Capital Management, LLC, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2017).  Judge Fisher often is able to write remarkably concise opinions, as shown (for example here and here.  In this appeal, however, Judge Fisher set the current Term’s record for the longest opinion, a 157-page magnum opus for the Appellate Division today.  Like another record-setting Appellate Division opinion from a prior year, Kaye v. Rosefielde, 432 N.J. Super. 421 (App. Div. 2013), and discussed here, this was a commercial dispute.  (For completeness, Kaye later went to the Supreme Court, which issued a much shorter opinion, on a limited issue, that was reported at 223 N.J. 218 (2015), as discussed here).

Today’s opinion by Judge Fisher, in what he called a “leviathan of a case” (he noted that the case had run for eleven years, and that it had generated millions of pages of documents, over 150 depositions, a joint appellate appendix of nearly 200,000 pages, and appellate briefing from the many parties involved that, though “succinct,” totaled nearly 600 pages) merited every bit of what he wrote.

This was a RICO case that also asserted common law claims such as disparagement and tortious interference.  There were choice of law and statute of limitations  questions, including an issue as to which statue of limitations law would apply, a question as to which Judge Fisher found McCarrell v. Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc., 227 N.J. 569 (2017) (discussed here), which was decided after the Law Division ruled in today’s case, to be dispositive.  Personal jurisdiction was another issue raised, as was the propriety of the Law Division’s exclusion of a lost profits expert for plaintiffs.  There were also cross-appeals, which featured a First Amendment issue and a standing argument, both of which the panel rejected.

The short summary is that the panel found New York law applicable in certain respects and New Jersey’s law in others.  New York law compelled the dismissal of the RICO claims, as the Law Division had ruled.  New York law also applied to the common law claims, but New Jersey’s six-year statute of limitations, rather than the shorter statute employed by the court below, governed those claims, and plaintiffs had otherwise satisfied New York law in alleging those claims, so that the dismissal of those causes of action were reversed.  Personal jurisdiction over certain defendants was lacking, and Judge Fisher affirmed the court below on that issue.  The panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of one set of defendants but reversed as to another group.  Finally, Judge Fisher affirmed the Law Division’s decision to bar plaintiffs’ expert, though he disagreed with some of the reasoning that led to that ruling.

This opinion is well worth reading in full.  Given the stakes involved (plaintiffs sought over $1 billion in damages according to Judge Fisher), today’s opinion is not likely to be the last stop on the appellate train.  And since some claims were permitted to go forward, the case will go back to the trial level for more proceedings.

 

 

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