Skip to Content

Bienert | Katzman Wins Big in Case Against Alta Dena Family

Fri 24th Aug 2018, Blog, Case Successes

Bienert | Katzman recently settled all claims asserted against its client, J. Wayne Allen, in a long-running legal malpractice, fraud, and RICO case pending in the Orange County Superior Court.  The settlement came after the completion of jury selection and with opening statements set to begin.  The settlement amount, $1,250,000, represented less than one percent of the plaintiffs’ damages claim.

In 2001, the plaintiffs – members of the Stueve family that founded Alta Dena Dairy – hired Mr. Allen to design an estate plan.  Almost a decade later, in 2010, certain of the family members filed suit against Mr. Allen and other defendants, asserting claims for legal malpractice, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, elder abuse, and civil RICO, among others.  The stakes were high, as the plaintiffs claimed that Mr. Allen and the other defendants had depleted their family fortune, and sought more than $200 million in damages.

Mr. Allen denied the plaintiffs’ claims and defended the case vigorously.  The parties conducted more than 100 days of depositions, exchanged hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, and collectively designated more than 20 expert witnesses.  Along the way, Bienert | Katzman secured key victories, including on several critical motions in limine and other pre-trial rulings that had the effect of limiting both the plaintiffs’ damage claims and their evidentiary presentation at trial.  The trial was expected to last 15 weeks.

On August 3, 2018, with opening statements set to begin the next court day, the plaintiffs agreed to settle all claims against Mr. Allen and dismiss him from the case.  The entire settlement will be paid by an insurance carrier, with no out of pocket payment by Mr. Allen himself.

“We view this settlement as vindication for our client,” said Michael R. Williams, Mr. Allen’s lead trial counsel in the case.  “Mr. Allen’s outstanding work resulted in tens of millions of dollars in tax savings, cash payments, and other benefits for the Alta Dena heirs.  This settlement – essentially a cost of defense settlement on the eve of trial – is confirmation that the claims against him were baseless.  We are thrilled to have been able obtain this outstanding result our client.”  Bienert | Katzman founding partner Thomas H. Bienert Jr., associates Ali Matin and Nancy Sandoval, and paralegal Carolyn Howland made up the rest of Bienert | Katzman’s trial team.

* Ruth McClamma Stueve, et al. v. Raymond Novell, et al., Case No. 30-2010-00411651 (Orange County Superior Court, Civil Complex Division)