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Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft v. Beasley

Florida Court of Appeal
728 So. 2d 253 (1998)


Facts

James Beasley (plaintiff) was an established estate-planning lawyer in South Florida with many local clients. In 1989, Beasley joined the Palm Beach office of the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft as a partner. In 1994, Cadwalader decided to close the Palm Beach office due to its unprofitability. Cadwalader informed Beasley that he could remain a partner with the firm, but would have to relocate to either the Washington, D.C., or New York office. Alternatively, Cadwalader offered Beasley a severance package for his withdrawal from the partnership. Beasley brought suit for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court ruled in favor of Beasley, finding that Cadwalader anticipatorily breached the partnership agreement. The court awarded Beasley over $2.5 million in damages, including his capital contribution plus interest, his proportional interest in partnership assets, the profits attributable to Beasley’s use of his right in the firm’s property, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Cadwalader appealed, arguing, in part, that Beasley voluntarily withdrew from the firm when he did not accept the transfer to another office. Cadwalader’s partnership agreement did not contain an expulsion provision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Polen, J.)

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