Daniel Case and law firm dropped from Kauai case
Former shareholders of Grove Farm alleged misconduct in the sale
LIHUE » Daniel Case, members of the Case Bigelow & Lombardi law firm, and the firm itself were dismissed yesterday from one of the remaining lawsuits alleging misconduct in the 2000 sale of Grove Farm Co. Inc.
Over a dozen former shareholders sued the company in 2005, alleging the law firm and Case, a director of Oahu Publications, which publishes the Star-Bulletin, committed fraud to allow Case's son, AOL founder Steve Case, to buy the former sugar plantation company for less than what they say it was worth.
The elder Case, a partner in Case, Bigelow & Lombardi, was the former corporation counsel to Grove Farm. The lawsuit also alleged Case and the law firm never stopped representing the company, even after the younger Case tried to buy it.
But Kauai Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe ruled yesterday that, according to state law, the lawyers representing the company had no duty to protect shareholders, only to their client, the company itself.
The plaintiff's attorneys argued that shareholders were the lawyers' ultimate client, since the board of directors were like trustees or auctioneers, their lone mission to get the best price for the company.
But Watanabe said there "was a leap in (that) argument."
The company's former board of directors, some of whom are cousins to the plaintiffs, remain as defendants for their part in the transaction.
They signed a waiver to allow the elder Case to continue working on the deal, despite the fact his son was the buyer.