Pretzel & Stouffer

Supreme Court Upholds Appellate Court Victory

Today, based on arguments raised by the Pretzel & Stouffer trial team, led by Ed Ruff, the Illinois Supreme Court summarily denied the plaintiff’s petition for leave to appeal the 1st District Appellate Court’s ruling in favor of the defendants which reversed an $11 million judgment against a former New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) president and two of his partners. The Supreme Court’s ruling signals an end to the litigation with a complete victory for the for the defense.

The appeal arose from a fraud claim originally tried before a Cook County jury. The plaintiff, a former commodities trader, had partnered with the defendants to form a company called Chicago Trading and Arbitrage, which allowed traders to submit stock orders electronically. The defendants later formed a second company called Archipelago – without the plaintiff – that also offered electronic trading. Archipelago eventually merged with the NYSE in a lucrative deal, and the plaintiff claimed he was defrauded out of his share of the business opportunity.

At trial, Mr. Ruff argued that the settlement of a 1998 lawsuit arising out of Chicago Trading and Arbitrage’s dissolution had released the plaintiff’s claim. The trial court disagreed and prevented Mr. Ruff from questioning the plaintiff about the release and similar allegations made in the previous lawsuit. The trial court also shifted the burden of proof to the defense, adding a significant obstacle. Despite this and the fact that the plaintiff requested more than $100 million in damages, the jury awarded just $11 million in the case.

In a rare move, the appellate court quoted Mr. Ruff’s plea to the trial court in support of its reversal. Mr. Ruff argued that by preventing him from questioning the plaintiff regarding the earlier lawsuit and release, the trial court “has essentially allowed [the plaintiff] to perjure himself” and “[denied] the defendants a fair opportunity to challenge [the plaintiff] on this point.” Through rigorous defense at trial in the face of major setbacks, the Pretzel trial team protected its clients’ interests so that the proper result could ultimately be achieved.

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