Steven Kaufman has extensive experience as lead trial counsel in a wide range of high-stakes business litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country. His clients include Public and Private corporations and partnerships, Not-for-Profit organizations, and entrepreneurs in the financial services, real estate, professional services, manufacturing and technology industries. His litigation and trial experience for both plaintiffs and defendants includes complex matters, commercial, real estate and development, eminent domain, employment, contract, professional liability, fiduciary duty, financial services, fraud,trade secret, intellectual property, civil rights and class actions. He is an experienced first chair trial lawyer and has tried a multitude of bench and jury cases to verdict.
Steve is an adjunct professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Steve is a past President of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and current Co-Chair of the Real Estate Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. Steve has served on the Boards of a considerable number of entities, including Public Agencies, Public and Private Corporations, and Not-for-Profit Organizations. He was formerly a partner, Chair of the Business Litigation practice, and Member of the Executive Committee of a national law firm prior to his founding of Kaufman & Company in January 2011. He previously founded, developed, and managed a business litigation boutique for 20 years before it merged into the national law firm in 2002.
Steve is an experienced first chair trial lawyer in a wide range of civil matters. He has tried many bench and jury cases to verdict and has been a frequent speaker and writer on trial practice. Steve has served in the following representative trials:
- As lead trial counsel In the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, for a trustee of a large Northeast Ohio foundation which was the plaintiff for claims for breach of fiduciary duties and Ohio law against the co-trustees of foundation. This case arose out of the sale of the public company which controlled the foundation and certain related actions taken to spin-off control of the foundation under the lifetime control of some of the trustees. Highly favorable settlement reached after the first week of a bench trial.
- As lead trial counsel for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in a five-week bench trial in an eminent domain action to acquire 14 commercial properties for the largest downtown Cleveland real estate redevelopment project in over 30 years, involving a $400 million mixed-use housing, office and retail redevelopment project on the East Bank of the Cuyahoga River. The case settled after five weeks of trial when all property owners agreed to settle and transfer all property to the project.
- As lead trial counsel, won a defense verdict in State Court in the largest-ever commercial eminent domain trial in Ohio history, enabling the City of Cleveland to expand Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The defense verdict prevented the neighboring City of Brook Park from taking Cleveland’s property by eminent domain for its economic development purposes. Because the 180-acre tract was the only reasonable location for planned and necessary airport expansion, including a new international runway, building an entirely new airport at a green field site was not an option, and Cleveland stood to incur billions of dollars in economic development damages. The Cleveland Plain Dealer hailed the four-week trial victory as a victory for the entire Northeast Ohio region.
- As Ohio trial counsel on trial in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio obtaining a trial verdict in a patent infringement litigation upholding the validity of the patent on behalf of a major world-wide pharmaceutical manufacturer, and against a generic drug maker involving one of the most commercially successful over-the-counter drugs.
- As co-lead trial counsel won a unanimous ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court in an election contest action on behalf of the successful candidate for Ohio Attorney General, who won the statewide election by only 1,234 votes.
- As co-trial counsel won injunction trial allowing the most significant public development project in Cleveland in 30 years to proceed. Won a TRO permitting the $275 million financing to close and then won a week-long trial, obtaining a preliminary injunction against an architectural firm who tried to block the $275 million Flats East Bank redevelopment project in a dispute over the ownership of the project drawings. A state court judge found that the developer had the right to maintain ownership of and use the drawings and that not recognizing this right would irreparably harm the developer, the project, and the Greater Cleveland area.
- As lead counsel on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Government Transition Committee won the defense of a mandamus action before Ohio Supreme Court regarding the County Charter Reform Government Transition in an action brought by the ACLU challenging the Public/Private collaborative transition process regarding Public Open Meetings and Records Acts practices. The 2010 County Charter reform had replaced a 200-year old form of County Commissioner Government with a new County Executive led government with a County Council. A unanimous Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the clients based on the non-public body nature of the Transition Committee and its rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Other Representative Matters
Steve’s clients have succeeded in many cases where he has served as lead counsel before they even went to trial:
- As lead counsel, represented major financial institution in professional liability claims against outside counsel regarding tax and other investment related advice resulting in substantial seven-figure confidential settlement.
- Represented a publicly held REIT plaintiff in litigation in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, against sellers regarding the earn out portion of the purchase agreement for the sale of a $330 million commercial shopping center development portfolio in Idaho and Utah. After winning a hotly contested battle over venue and jurisdiction, and after succeeding on motions to dismiss many of the sellers’ counterclaims, the matter resulted in a highly favorable confidential settlement.
- Represented a financial institution with a major national mortgage lending business unit in mortgage fraud related claims in numerous litigations against title companies, closing agents, attorneys, appraisers and others in claims for breaches of contract, fiduciary duty, fraud and RICO in state and federal courts throughout the United States, each of which resulted in multi-million dollar recoveries.
- Represented a manufacturer in Ohio State Court in its claim in Ohio State Court for multimillion dollars in damages arising out of the legal malpractice by its law firm, which represented it in trade secret litigation. The matter was settled confidentially and for a significant insurance limits result.
- Represented a CT imaging medical practice in defending claims against a major area hospital which asserted breach of contract claims seeking $15 million in damages arising out of a contractual arrangement for the provisions of CT services to the hospital. The case was then settled confidentially for a significant monetary recovery after the court ruled it would allow the jury to consider the plaintiff’s punitive damages claims.
- Represented the largest manufacturers of packaging machines and materials with domestic and overseas operations as a plaintiff in United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, in a patent and copyright infringement litigation. Shortly before trial, the matter settled for consent judgments acknowledging the validity of the disputed patents and a substantial monetary payment under a confidentiality agreement.
- Represented the limited partner investors in a residential condominium development as plaintiffs in an action in Ohio State Court for legal malpractice action, breach of fiduciary duty and securities fraud claims against the general partner and its law firm. This matter settled favorably following a unanimous landmark decision in the Ohio Supreme Court in favor of the investors and against the law firm.
- Represented a large U.S. aerospace manufacturing company against one of the largest Canadian insurance companies involving claims in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio for breaches of duty and contract in connection with the termination of a corporate pension plan in place at the time of the sale of the company. A very favorable confidential settlement was reached only months after instituting the litigation.
- New York State Bar Association, Member
- American Bar Association: Real Estate Litigation Committee Co-Chair (2012-Present)
- American Bar Association: Real Estate Litigation Committee Member and Condemnation Committee Co-Chair (2011-present)
- The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association: President (2003-2004); President-Elect (2002-2003); Vice President (2001-2002); Member, Board of Trustees (1998-2001)
- National Council of Bar Presidents, Member
- Ohio Metropolitan Bar Association Caucus: President (2003-2004)
- Ohio State Bar Foundation • Fellows Class of 2001
- American Bar Association Foundation – Fellow
- General Counsel, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Government Transition Executive Committee (January 2010–November 2010)
- Judicial Review Commission for the Northern District of Ohio, member (Commission recommends appointments to United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio)
- Celebrezze Inn of Court, Master Bencher, member (1995 – present)
- Judicial Conference of the Eighth Judicial District, Life Member; Life Member Committee Co-Chair, Seventeenth Conference of the Eighth Judicial Conference (April 2009)
- Adjunct Professor of Law, Eminent Domain Law and Trial Practice, Case Western Reserve University School of Law (2007-2010)
- Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cleveland Board of Trustees, Member (2010-2013); Government Relations Committee, Chair (2010-2013)
- Transition Team for Mayor Frank Jackson, City of Cleveland Transition Committee on Regional Development, Member (2005)
- Shaker Heights School District Board of Education, President (2004-2006); Vice President (2003-2004); Twice elected member of District Board of Education (1997)
- Shaker Heights School District Finance & Audit Committee, Member (2000-2003)
- Transition Team of Mayor Jane Campbell, City of Cleveland Transition Committee regarding Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Member (2001)
- Transition Team for Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher for Selection of Chief Counsel, Member (1990-1991)
- Leadership Cleveland Class of 1999