Judge upholds $4M verdict in Raveis-Elliman broker-poaching case

Elliman sued Raveis in 2015 for hiring former manager, 10 brokers

Dec.December 12, 2017 03:30 PM

Howard Lorber and Bill Raveis

A New York state judge has upheld a nearly $4 million verdict against William Raveis Real Estate, after a jury said the suburban firm poached a manager and 10 agents from rival Douglas Elliman.

The Dec. 11 ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Douglas Elliman, in which it alleged Raveis hired its former manager, Lisa Theiss, and conspired with her to lure “top producing” agents to Raveis’ new office in Armonk, New York.

In June, a jury sided with Elliman and awarded the firm $5 million in damages — including $2.5 million in punitive damages and another $2.25 million for breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference with contract. Raveis subsequently sought to reduce the verdict.

On Monday, Judge Alan Scheinkman upheld the $2.5 million in punitive damages but reduced the $2.25 million verdict to $1.3 million. The judge also said Elliman did not have to pay Theiss a $40,000 bonus she sought for her work in 2015, before she jumped to Raveis.

“The actions undertaken by Raveis go far beyond simply recruiting away at-will employees,” wrote Scheinkman in his Dec. 11 ruling. “Raveis intentionally and purposefully recruited the office manager, Theiss, and had her remain in Elliman’s employ, while, with her assistance, Raveis recruited her subordinates.”

In a statement, Elliman executives said they were pleased by the ruling.

“The jury found that Raveis and Theiss had unlawfully schemed to harm Elliman in Westchester, and the court has now upheld that determination,” said Mark Lerner, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP who represented Elliman.

For its part, Raveis said it is “gratified” the court reduced the verdict and pledged to appeal the judgment.

The Dec. 11 ruling was just the latest chapter in the ongoing battle between the two firms, which have expanded into each others’ territory in recent years.

Back in 2014, Raveis tapped former Rutenberg Realty principals, Paul Purcell and Kathy Braddock, to head up its inaugural foray into New York City. That same year, Elliman opened up shop in Greenwich, Connecticut, followed by Westchester in 2015.

“They’ll eventually be out of Westchester,” Bill Raveis told The Real Deal at the time.

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