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John O. Sheller

Work Highlights

Breach of Contract

SKO represented an insurance company that was being sued in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by a paper products manufacturer for breach of an insurance contract. The manufacturer alleged that it had proven a covered loss under an employee theft policy and the insurer disagreed and denied many elements of the claim. At the trial court level, the manufacturer willfully violated multiple discovery orders and the court dismissed the manufacturer’s claims as a sanction. After the dismissal, the trial court denied the insurer’s motion for fees incurred litigating the dispute. The manufacturer appealed the trial court’s denial to the Sixth Circuit and the insurer cross-appealed the denial of fees. After briefing on the first appeal had concluded, the parties resolved all matters amicably. While the case did not result in an appellate decision, SKO was successful in preserving an important district court opinion levying a rare dismissal sanction for discovery misconduct.

Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

SKO represented a manufacturer and distributor of auto supplies that was sued for workers’ compensation retaliation under the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act, KRS Chapter 342. The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky entered summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer, from which the plaintiff did not appeal.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claim

SKO represented a nonprofit in a suit brought by two women who claimed that they were victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The individuals sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The nonprofit moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The gravamen of the motion to dismiss was that the plaintiffs could not state a claim for religious discrimination without at least contending that their own religious views or practices were adversely effected in some way. The motion was vigorously opposed by plaintiffs and their advocates. The United States District Court granted the nonprofit’s motion to dismiss in a published opinion that adopted SKO’s argument. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal on the same rationale in another published opinion. Petitions for en banc review by the full Sixth Circuit and for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court were later denied.

Breach of Contract, Fiduciary Duty & Trade Secrets Law

SKO represented four employees of an asset management firm who sought new employment at a bank and were sued by the asset firm to enjoin them from working for the bank. These employees were also sued for alleged breaches of contract, fiduciary duty, trade secrets law and for other torts. The four managers countersued the asset firm, contending that their 12-month resignation notice period was, in effect, an implied and improper non-compete provision because the employer would not let them perform their regular job duties during the notice period. The Federal District Court, following trial-like evidentiary hearings after expedited discovery, permitted the four employees to work for the bank without requiring them to serve their 12-month notice period. This successful injunction phase then precipitated almost five years of litigation concerning the alleged damages sustained by the asset firm due to the alleged “raid” of the four investment managers and some of their colleagues. After SKO had the case dismissed from Federal District Court on jurisdictional grounds, the asset firm re-filed the suit in New York state court. After years of additional discovery and other motion practice, including battles over experts and their testimony, cross-motions for summary judgment were filed, and the case was poised for trial. Less than 10 days before trial, the case as dismissed with no payment by SKO clients.