Case Details

Featured Case: Judge Rejects Claims vs. Company President in Bitter Family Feud

There is no fight like a family fight.

Ellis vs. Varney, et al.

Just ask the defendants in a case brought by the daughter of a Bellingham business founder against her step mother, step brother and other shareholders and directors in her late father’s sand and gravel company, which also had significant real estate holdings and related revenues.

The plaintiff, in her complaint filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, hurled multiple accusations at the defendants, seeking ownership and control of the company, as well as enormous damages from alleged business torts, including breaches of contract and fiduciary duty. She also sought an accounting, a rescission of the company’s employment agreement with president Linda Varney (her step mother), an amendment to certain corporate by-laws regarding share transfers, the replacement of various directors and the establishment of a policy regarding payment of dividends to shareholders.

Defendant Linda Varney, represented by Campbell Trial Lawyers, was a particular target for the plaintiff’s complaints, accused of multiple misdeeds and breaches of fiduciary duty as president of the closely held company.

“There were a lot of accusations in this case and there were a lot of tangled issues,” recalls Richard P. Campbell, trial counsel for the company president. “But it really came down to the plaintiff wanting to seize control,” he surmises.

Despite all of the allegations, and a trial that lasted for a month and a half, the plaintiff walked away without control of the company and without removing the defendant from her position as president. The plaintiff did receive some additional stock shares and an order to recalculate certain bonuses, but the corporation and its president survived the attack and defeated almost all of the other claims.

Judge Francis R. Fecteau, who heard the case and now sits as a Justice on the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, reportedly called the titanic trial one of the most complicated legal contests over which he ever presided.

“We were confident the judge would listen to the evidence, apply the law correctly and make the right decisions,” Campbell concludes.

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