MIAMI (November 16, 2011) — Under the leadership of partner Michael G. Austin, international law firm McDermott Will & Emery won extraordinary relief for its client, Jupiter Medical Center (JMC), as it secured a rare reversal of an Arbitration Award in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals.
“With this decision, Michael won a terrific victory in getting the court to reverse the Arbitration Panel’s decision, something which courts rarely do and only in limited circumstances,” said Lazar P. Raynal, Firm-wide Head of Trial at McDermott Will & Emery. “It was a total win for our client and a clear demonstration of how great lawyering can lead to favorable outcomes for our clients.”
The dispute dates back to 2005 when JMC reached an agreement for the Visiting Nurse Association of Florida, Inc. (VNA) to purchase JMC’s existing home health agency business. After having less success in operating the agency than it expected, VNA commenced an arbitration proceeding against JMC, citing breach of contract claims.
In 2009, McDermott partner Austin took over the case for JMC after prior counsel had lost in the underlying arbitration process, where an Arbitration Award (plus substantial attorney fees) was entered against JMC for allegedly breaching a contract relating to the sale of JMC’s home health agency to VNA.
Immediately upon taking over as litigation counsel for JMC, Austin challenged the Arbitration Award on the grounds that the award was facially illegal, and that the parties’ contract, as construed by the Arbitration Panel, constituted an illegal contract purportedly requiring JMC to make, influence and/or steer illegal future Medicare patient referrals to VNA’s home health agency in exchange for the direct monetary remuneration from VNA.
Despite the serious illegality issues raised, however, the Arbitration Panel refused to grant JMC the relief it sought. An appeal was then filed with Florida’s Fourth District Court Appeals arguing that the lower court erred by refusing to vacate, and by improperly judicially enforcing the Arbitration Award which was facially illegal and based upon a contract which, as construed by the arbitrators, was blatantly illegal.
On September 14, 2011, the Fourth District Court of Appeals agreed with JMC’s arguments, and issued the opinion reversing the lower court.
VNA subsequently filed a motion with the appellate court requesting a rehearing en banc, however, on November 10, 2011, the Fourth District Court of Appeals entered an order denying VNA’s motion for rehearing and upholding the favorable opinion for JMC.
“We are pleased that Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals took the time to understand the complex legal and regulatory healthcare issues involved with JMC’s challenge to the adverse illegal arbitration award, and that Florida’s judiciary refused to enforce or otherwise condone such an illegal award,” said Austin.
In addition to Michael Austin, the McDermott trial and healthcare team included partner Adam Rogers and associate Matthew Grosack.
McDermott’s Trial Practice Group takes on, and consistently wins, the most demanding cases for clients. McDermott's skilled trial lawyers have a deep understanding of substantive areas of the law. This knowledge combines with the Firm’s breadth of courtroom experience to position its lawyers for trial or to resolve matters short of trial if that is more advantageous. McDermott's Trial Practice Group includes several members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, former Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Department of Justice lawyers, as well as former members of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Department of Commerce. More than 50 McDermott lawyers have previously served as judicial law clerks.
About McDermott Will & Emery
McDermott Will & Emery is a premier international law firm with a diversified business practice. Numbering more than 1,000 lawyers, we have offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Rome, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. Extending our reach to Asia, we have a strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.