Northwest Bank awarded legal fees in contract breach lawsuit

On top of a $3 million award from the jury trial, Northwest Bank will be recouping legal fees.

In December, Northwest Bank won a jury trial and was awarded more than $3 million, for a situation in which a former employee — Matthew Turk — left Northwest Insurance Services (a wholly-owned subsidiary) for a competitor — First National Insurance Agency (a subsidiary of First National Bank) — and took fellow employees and clients with him in breach of his contract.

That suit was originally filed in June of 2017.

According to the complaint, officials at FNIA, First National Bank, and F.N.B. Corporation referred to the effort of taking employees and clients as Operation Green Goblin.

At the end of April, Warren County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Maureen Skerda upheld that decision and further ruled that the defendants in the case are on the hook for legal fees.

Following the trial, the defendants made motions to set aside the verdict, overturn punitive damages, have a new trial, and have some of their attorney’s fees paid by the plaintiff. All were denied.

Northwest also filed a number of post-trial motions. Most were denied. Two — adding interest payments to the original awards and awarding legal fees and costs — were granted.

Skerda said Northwest was due interest at an annual rate of 6 percent for the period between the date of verdict and the date of payment.

Also, in her order regarding the post-trial motions, she said she “reviewed the attorney’s fees requested and found them to be reasonable given the amount of time spent in litigating this case.”

Turk, the only individual defendant to be found in breach of contract, had signed a non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreement with Northwest stating, in part, “if court action is necessary to enforce this agreement, I shall be responsible for Northwest’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs; provided that Northwest prevails in said enforcement action.”

In her order, Skerda said, “Northwest prevailed, so in turn, Plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.”

She awarded fees and costs amounting to $361,093.74.

“We’re pleased Judge Skerda upheld the jury’s damages awards, which reflects well upon the strength of the case,” Northwest Bank Communications Manager Melanie Clabaugh said. “We look forward to continuing to provide the highest level of service to our business and personal banking, investment, benefits and insurance customers across Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.”