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Mobasser v. Yermian (2014)

April 22, 2014

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In this appeal, Horvitz & Levy LLP obtained reversal of a judgment against an individual defendant, plastic surgeon Dr. John Yermian.

Dr. Yermian formed a partnership with his uncle, Amir Mobasser, to operate a convenience store. The business failed and the parties got into a dispute over the terms of their oral partnership agreement. Mobasser sued Dr. Yermian for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. After a jury trial, Mobasser obtained a judgment against Dr. Yermian for $700,000, including $481,000 in punitive damages.

Dr. Yermian retained Horvitz & Levy to represent him on appeal from the judgment. Our briefs did not challenge the liability findings, instead focusing on the punitive damages and the jury’s award of nearly $100,000 in emotional distress damages.

The California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) issued an unpublished opinion reversing the judgment and ruling in Dr. Yermian’s favor on all issues. First, the court ruled that the jury’s award of emotional distress damages was not supported by substantial evidence that Mobasser suffered serious emotional distress. Second, the court ruled that Mobasser failed to present meaningful evidence of Dr. Yermian’s financial condition, and thereby forfeited his claim for punitive damages. Third, the court reinstated Dr. Yermian’s cross-complaint against Mobasser for an accounting of the partnership. Fourth, the court reversed the order denying Dr. Yermian’s request for sanctions for Mobasser’s failure to admit prior to trial that he was not an employee of Dr. Yermin.