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Schulman Bhattacharya Wins Attorney’s Fees Challenge in New York Federal Court for Client Benihana of Tokyo

Jan 18

In a 19-page written decision released today, Judge Engelmayer of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York sided with the Firm and its client, Benihana of Tokyo, LLC, and denied counter-party Benihana Inc.’s petition to vacate a portion of an arbitral award.  The award resulted from a long-running dispute over operation of a Benihana restaurant in Hawaii.  Schulman Bhattacharya was engaged to represent Benihana of Tokyo after the conclusion of the arbitration, which was handled by predecessor counsel.  We were engaged to oppose Benihana Inc.’s request for nearly $1 million in legal fees incurred in connection with the arbitration.  We argued that the Court lacked authority to substitute its judgment for that of the panel of arbitrators, who correctly interpreted the parties’ agreement not to permit an award of attorney’s fees to Benihana Inc.  The Court agreed, holding that it could not override the arbitrators’ determination, even if contrary to the Court’s own interpretation of the agreement.  Accordingly, as we requested, the petition to vacate the arbitral award as to attorney’s fees was denied, and Benihana of Tokyo will not be responsible for paying Benihana Inc.’s attorney’s fees.  A copy of Judge Engelmayer’s decision can be found here.