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Weir Greenblatt Pierce Team Secures Dismissal of Fraud Action Over Sale of Philmont Country Club

By: devweb

Weir Greenblatt Pierce (WGP) partners, Walter Weir, Jr., Susan Verbonitz and Alan L. Yatvin, recently secured a complete victory for their clients, Concert Golf Partners and its principal, Peter Nanula, in a fraud action brought against them by developer North Penn Towns (NPT), when United States District Court Judge Karen Spencer Marston granted summary judgment in favor of WGP’s clients on all claims.

The action arose from Concert’s purchase of the Philmont Country Club in 2017.  NPT had been a suitor for purchase of a 61-acre portion of the Club’s property for development of residential homes.  The deal fell apart in September of 2016, and Concert, which purchases distressed golf clubs, infuses capital and manages them back to financial viability, ultimately purchased the entire Club.  Concert agreed to pay off the Club’s debts of nearly a million dollars, make a set of specific capital improvements, estimated to cost approximately $4 million dollars, and agreed to make a further capital improvements of about $5 million upon sale of the development parcel.

NPT sued Philmont Country Club, the non-profit that had owned the Club of the same name, Concert, Nanula and others in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas over the sale.  NPT then settled with Philmont, part of which included assignment of Philmont’s non-contractual claims to NPT.  NPT then filed suit in district court against various Concert entities and Ridgewood, a developer working with Concert, alleging violations of federal antitrust law, fraud, breach of contract and conspiracy, On August 12, 2021, Judge Marston dismissed the federal antitrust and conspiracy claims, some of the fraud claims, and claims of aiding and abetting fraud.

NPT then filed an amended complaint asserting fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure, and fraudulent concealment under Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 550 and 551, and aiding and abetting fraud.  The suit asserted that Concert and Nanula never intended to make the agreed capital improvements and that Concert’s collaboration with developer Ridgewood somehow compromised the sale price of the Club.  There was also a breach of contract claim against Ridgewood arising from an alleged breach of a confidentiality agreement.

In her July 28, 2022, Opinion granting summary judgment as to all defendants on all counts, except the breach of contract claim against Ridgewood, Judge Marston agreed with WGP that the fraud claim asserting misrepresentations as to the capital improvements was barred by the gist of the action doctrine, because the allegations of fraud involved duties that were outline in the sales agreement.  Because the action sounded in contract, not tort, the fraud claims were barred. 

NPT’s fraudulent concealment and non-disclosure claims under the Restatement (Second) of Torts related to alleged failure to disclose and actively concealing that Concert and Ridgewood were working together.  Judge Marston dismissed these claims after concluding that Concert and Nanula had no duty to disclose their relationship which was neither material nor basic to the transaction and that Ridgewood was not a party to a business transaction with Philmont.  Finally, because the fraud claims were dismissed as to all defendants, the aiding and abetting fraud claims were also dismissed.

Commenting on the decision, Walter Weir, Jr., said:  “This was an astounding victory for the defendants and represents the best of our judicial system to ferret out and make simple what was an unnecessarily complicated case.”

Read the Full Opinion here: Summary Judgment Memorandum Opinion

Read more about the case in the Legal Intelligencer here: Fraud Claim Over Sale of Philmont Country Club Dismissed

Partners Brett A. Datto And Jennifer Hiller-Nimeroff Obtain Significant Victory For Client In NCAA Eligibility Appeal

By: devweb

Weir Greenblatt Pierce LLP is pleased to announce that it has won a significant victory on behalf of a client who was denied a sixth year of eligibility to play college football this fall.  On July 13, 2022, the NCAA granted the appeal of Brandon Outlaw, who had requested that the NCAA reverse a decision by the University of Southern California finding him ineligible to play, citing Brandon’s prior participation in both track and field and football.  In reversing the university’s decision, the NCAA found that Brandon had been denied “multiple participation opportunities” due to his financial hardship and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The ruling means that Brandon will be allowed to suit up and play football this fall for the Trojans.

Brandon’s lawyers, Brett A. Datto and Jennifer Hiller-Nimeroff, complimented the NCAA for its swift and careful consideration of the facts of Brandon’s case and noted that both legal and equitable factors played a key role in the matter.  Mr. Datto has been representing athletes at the local, state and national levels for over 30 years, and currently represents several current and former semi-professional and professional athletes in personal and business matters.  Ms. Hiller-Nimeroff is an experienced lawyer with nearly 25 years of litigation experience, representing the interests of individuals and businesses in complex legal matters.

Weir Greenblatt Pierce LLP Secures Summary Judgment For Client In COVID-19 Breach of Contract Case

By: devweb

            Weir Greenblatt Pierce LLP partners Walter Weir, Jr. and Steven E. Angstreich secured a significant victory for their client in an action against a commercial tenant for breach of lease due to the tenant’s failure to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In granting summary judgment in favor of their client, the Superior Court of New Jersey rejected the tenant’s argument that the COVID-19 pandemic relieved the tenant of its obligation to pay rent under the doctrines of frustration of purpose and impracticability.

          The action arose from the tenant’s breach of a 10-year commercial lease when it refused to pay rent claiming that the pandemic frustrated its purpose for entering the lease, and that it was unable to perform under the lease terms. The issues in the case involved questions of whether a party may cite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to void its obligations under a contract, and whether the contract itself included provisions that would allow a party to do so.

            The tenant, who was a provider of medical services, alleged, among other things, that because the pandemic caused an increase in demand for remote services and a decrease in demand for in-person services, the agreement became less profitable and its primary purpose for entering the agreement had been frustrated. The tenant further alleged that performance became impracticable for the same reason and argued that it should no longer have to pay rent.

            In granting summary judgment, the New Jersey Superior Court found that the lease clearly states that the premises would be used for “medical services” as provided by the tenant and included no language regarding contingencies. The Court also noted that the lease clearly indicated that any failure to pay rent would amount to a material breach of the agreement. The Court ultimately held that although the COVID-19 pandemic was an unforeseeable circumstance, “[n]o rational fact finder could find that the performance here was literally impossible or made inordinately more difficult by COVID-19, as the only performance required by Defendant tenant was to pay their rent.” The change in demand for in-person medical services, according to the Court, did not frustrate any purpose contemplated in the language of the agreement between the Parties, and did not render the tenant unable to perform its obligation to pay rent under the lease. Accordingly, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlord.

            The full Opinion may be read here.

WGP Listed in 2021 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Firms

By: devweb

U.S. News Best Lawyers Best Law Firms 2021 WGP Ranked

Philadelphia – February 2, 2021 – Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC  (WGP) has been recognized in the 2021 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings list for the City of Philadelphia. The firm received a “Tier 1” rating in Employment Law for Individuals, the highest rating possible.

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers Best Law Firms rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

Additionally, to be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer recognized first in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing attorneys in the country. Two WGP partners received that honor: Patricia V. Pierce (Employment Law for Individuals) and Ronald L. Greenblatt (Criminal Defense: General Practice).

According to Best Lawyers, “The 2021 rankings are based on the highest lawyer and firm participation on record, incorporating 8.3 million evaluations of more than 110,000 individual leading lawyers from more than 22,000 firms.”

Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit for more information.

Alan Yatvin, Distinguished Civil Rights Lawyer, Joins Firm — Will Chair Firm’s Highly Respected Civil Rights Practice

By: devweb

Haddonfield and Atlantic City NJ and Philadelphia Pa – January 1, 2021 – The partners at WGP are delighted to announce that Alan L. Yatvin, a preeminent police misconduct and civil rights litigator, has joined Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC (WGP)) as a partner. He will chair the firm’s Civil Rights department – long known for excellence in plaintiff’s civil rights matters. Attorney Alan YatvinAlan will continue to concentrate his practice on civil rights litigation, criminal defense in state, federal, and international tribunals, as well as the representation of students with special needs. With a successful career spanning 37 years, Alan has tried cases ranging from death penalty homicides to complex municipal liability police misconduct cases. He has also briefed and/or argued appellate matters before the United States Supreme Court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Alan has successfully litigated over 15 police shooting cases, recovering substantial compensation for victims and their families. On three separate occasions, he has also obtained federal jury verdicts against the City of Philadelphia on so-called Monell claims by showing a pattern and practice of police misconduct and the City’s failure to properly train or discipline its officers, placing him among the most successful attorneys in Philadelphia on these challenging claims. “When my long-standing partner, Howard Popper, decided to retire, I wanted to find a new professional home for my practice. I wanted to join a firm with an impeccable reputation, immense resources, and a substantial practice. Ron and his firm hit all my criteria. Plus, the opportunity to work with Pat Pierce, who I have admired and collaborated with for years, was a great incentive to join the firm. I am thrilled,“ said Mr. Yatvin. Said WGP Managing Partner Ron Greenblatt, “Alan Yatvin has long been recognized as one of the leaders in the civil rights and criminal defense bar. We are thrilled to be working with a lawyer of his stature in the legal community. His extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania, federal and international courts, coupled with his amazing success in his areas of practice will greatly benefit our firm and clients. Personally, Alan and I have been friends for over 30 years. I look forward to working with him on a daily basis and getting his input as we work to serve our clients and community.” In addition to his US clients, Alan also practices at the international criminal courts, where he has represented accused persons before the ICTY and the International Criminal Court (ICC), both in The Hague, and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. After graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City in 1983, Alan served as an Assistant Philadelphia and Federal Defender before entering private practice. He was managing partner of Popper & Yatvin from its founding in 1988 through 2020. A frequent lecturer on police misconduct litigation and trial advocacy skills, he is the recipient of the 2012 Thurgood Marshall Criminal Justice Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, where he has been a member since 1987. The Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) presented Alan with the 2010 Pro Bono Publico Award. Alan has been selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers List every year since 2004. Alan is also a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Referring to Alan in a special education appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote: “[W]e note that the litigation here was conducted by highly qualified and experienced counsel…” M.R. v. Ridley Sch. Dist., 868 F.3d 218, 230 n.9 (3d Cir. 2017). Alan was a member of the National Board of Directors of the American Diabetes Association from 2015-2017 and continues to represent special needs students and their parents, with a concentration on the rights of students with diabetes. He is a resident of Philadelphia. Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit for more information.

Changes in the Law Practice After COVID-19 … What Will Be the New Normal?

By: devweb

By Peter F. Vaira, for the May 12, 2020 edition of The Legal Intelligencer newspaper COVID-19 has brought numerous changes to the practice of law. Some were ordered by the courts, some instituted by practitioners, others simply have evolved. Some practice changes will be temporary, others may be long lasting. As with any change brought about by emergency circumstances, today’s changes may have downsides that outweigh their temporary advantages. I have asked for comments/views on the changing practices from judges, civil and criminal practitioners. A major result of the COVID-19 virus is the very widespread use of remote hearings due to restrictions on travel and public gatherings. These remote hearings by conference call or video technology, common practice in other professions and industries, has surprised leading members of the bar. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, in a discussion on April 16, held by the American Law Institute said, “I imagine that three weeks ago no Texas court had had more than one or two video conference hearings ever. As of April 10, we have had 2,000 hearings involving more than 14,000 people.” The remote hearings are the result of court closures, as well as executive orders limiting official and social functions. Judge Idee Fox, president judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, ordered the court closed until May 29; however, in a separate order urged depositions held by remote communications where possible, and stated that court reporters need not be present where the deponent is located. In a program sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association on April 23, featuring the chief judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the federal court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the clerk of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 80% of the discussion dealt with remote hearings. In weighing the pros and cons of the new techniques, Kate Barkman, the clerk of court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said, “The question becomes, what is the new normal?” Chief Judge Brooks Smith of the Third Circuit said that remote oral appellate arguments are easily handled, but some problems exist. He noted that the difficulty will be with the court’s panel members who are well known for interrupting the arguments with questions, often out of turn. He said that he would advise the judges beforehand to figure out some order of questioning. He further commented that he did not envy counsel who had to argue without seeing the visual expressions of the judges. One practice area that has been greatly affected is mediation and arbitration. Ben Picker, one of the leading mediators and arbitrators in Philadelphia, said, “The emergence of COVID-19 has turned the world of mediation and arbitration upside down. While many participants have initially resisted virtual mediation and arbitration because of their unfamiliarity with the technology, a 30-minute training session is likely to overcome these concerns. While remote mediation is less than perfect, I have found it can be highly effective. Arbitrators are working to create flexible methods of conducting remote hearings to be able to handle review of documents and other physical issues. I predict when we return to normalcy, there will be much greater use of remote mediation and arbitration, permitting participants to save time and money resulting from travel and lodging expenses.” Michael Engle, chair of the white collar defense group of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic will create long-lasting changes in the practice of law. Work-related travel for internal investigations and meeting with clients will be significantly curtailed, as firms realize that technology may be a cost-efficient substitute to travel. Perhaps it will become economically desirable for law firms to reduce overhead by downsizing physical office spaces.” Another major area of concern is jury trials. Kate Barkman, clerk of court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said, “Jurors may not show up.” Barkman noted that in the current climate it would be impossible for 12 jurors to sit shoulder to shoulder in a jury box. She added that bringing in 200 people in for a jury venire was equally impossible. Ann Flannery, a Philadelphia criminal lawyer said, “Many jurors may be asked to be excused because they are in an ‘at risk’ group—including those over 60 years old. Criminal defendants will be faced with tension between two important constitutional rights: the right to a speedy trial and the right to a jury selected from representative cross section of the entire community, a right recently reference by Justice Neil Gorsuch in Ramos v Louisiana, no. 18-05924’ 2020 Lexis 2407.” She added, “Jurors anxious about being in close accommodations could insidiously or subconsciously undermine the defendant’s right to an impartial jury by rapidly truncating deliberations and reaching a quick compromise verdict.” There has been no serious discussion of changing the actual jury trial. In a jury trial it is imperative that the jurors be in the same room as the witness to watch the witness testifying. In-person testimony is a major aspect in the fact-finding aspect of the Anglo-Saxon system in the United States and Great Britain. That is one of the principal reasons why depositions are rarely permitted in the criminal law.  Mike Snyder, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, is not concerned that trials will become a thing of the past. “Trials are still the cornerstone our justice system,” he said. A special area of concern of the criminal bar is the grand jury. Grand juries generally meet in one room with 23 jurors, the government attorney, the witness, and, in Pennsylvania state grand juries, the attorney for the witness. There is no effective way to separate the grand jurors from the other parties, as all the participants need to see and hear the witness. In the civil practice area, Robert Peirce, a well-known Pittsburgh plaintiffs attorney, said that there were negative, as well as positive, impacts on his practice. He further said, “There is the problem of not being readily able to meet with clients. Holding depositions is more difficult. On the positive side, we found that many jobs we thought could not be done at home actually can, and a trained staff can deal with many of these practical problems.” Joseph Guerrieri, a Washington, D.C. labor lawyer who represents railroad and airline union employees across the country, said that remote conferences are a poor substitute for actual meetings with his clients who have numerous employment problems as the result of the slowdown of passenger travel. One of the most serious issues is the restriction of the lawyer in conducting interviews, in-person depositions, and meetings with clients. Michael Engle, an experience criminal trial lawyer, said, “Many of the innovations regarding remote meetings and hearings will diminish our effectiveness as lawyers and our ability to best serve our clients.” It is this writer’s opinion, a lawyer’s personal skill in determining the actual factual circumstance he is dealing with, described by the courts as attorney opinion work product, must be preserved. Interviewing potential witnesses is a prime example. Good lawyers and investigators must see and hear a person to determine if the he is being truthful. More than one time the writer of this column has interviewed a possible witness and concluded he was “holding back.” Sometime later, it was discovered that the witness was less than candid in his interview.  Remote interviews make those findings nearly impossible. The lawyer’s job in both civil and criminal cases is to learn the truth; only face to face interviews will produce that result in questionable situations. Lawyers, judges, jurors, and investigators need that confrontation, in many situations, to be effective. Certain aspects of the criminal law practice will be affected. An issue currently being addressed is the release of prisoners who are medically vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. The Philadelphia court system has been criticized by both the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and several criminal defense lawyers for the slow release of vulnerable prisoners. See “Still Behind Bars in Philadelphia,” by Samantha Malamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30. Dean April Barton of Duquesne Law School said that she cannot count on operating as normal on campus next semester. She commented, “It will be either having a safe social distancing arrangement with professors and students or conducting classes completely online. We owe it to the students to offer the best as possible.” She further added that a major academic emphasis in the coming year will include instruction on individual leadership, a discipline not usually included in a law school curriculum. The courts and the bar will adapt procedures to deal with changing circumstances. Some changes were long overdue, such as the remote notarization of witness statements. Others must meet the test of time and circumstances. The remarks of U.S. District Chief Judge Mark R. Hornak of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, are relevant here. Hornak said, “I hope a by-product of this crisis is a renewed sense of perspective and gratitude for all of us. For example, in discovery disputes, emotion and personality often get in the way of what really is at stake. I hope that after seeing medical and first responders daily doing their duty, we can approach our work in a way that appreciates what is really involved and what can be done to resolve disputes with civility.” Peter Vaira is a member of Greenblatt Pierce Funt and Flores. He is a former U.S. attorney and the author of a book on Eastern District practice. He acts as special hearing master for Pennsylvania courts and clients. He can be reached at