After a four-day trial at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the jury deliberated for 70 minutes before rendering a unanimous verdict in favor of Plaintiff, Charles Nifong and against Defendants CST Brands on all claims. All twelve jurors found that the company breached its contract with Mr. Nifong and that the company’s failure to pay Mr. Nifong under the contract was not in good faith. Plaintiff’s trial counsels were Lane J. Schiff and Emily R. Derstine-Friesen of Console Mattiacci Law, LLC. Defendants’ trial counsels were David Fryman and Amy Bashore of Ballard Spahr, LLP.
The case involved a contract of which Mr. Nifong was a beneficiary and which provided Mr. Nifong certain benefits if his important job duties were reduced after a change in control at the company. Mr. Nifong complied with the contract’s requirements when a change in control occurred and his important job duties were reduced; however, the company failed to comply with its contractual obligations and refused to pay Mr. Nifong the benefits to which he was entitled under the contract. Defense counsel argued that Mr. Nifong was not timely in exercising his rights under the contract, and that the alternative positions offered to Mr. Nifong relieved the company of its obligation to pay him.
The jury’s verdict vindicated Mr. Nifong after more than two and a half years of hard fought litigation. In 2015, after the case was filed in state court, Defendants removed the case to federal court, arguing that ERISA preempted Plaintiff’s state law and common law claims. Plaintiff then successfully remanded the case to state court per order of Judge Schmehl of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which held that the contract was not governed by ERISA.
Mr. Nifong’s award exceeds $1.65 million, which includes full payment under the contract, an additional 25% of the contact amount in liquidated damages, and prejudgment interest. In addition, Plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees under the Wage Payment and Collection Law, and those fees exceed $400,000.
Stephen G. Console, a founding partner of Console Mattiacci Law, LLC, commented about the verdict: “Mr. Nifong’s determination to stand up for his rights, battle a large company for years and win a complete victory at trial should be cheered by employees everywhere. Too often employers attempt to squeeze their employees out of money owed, using their enormous economic advantage as a lever. This verdict hopefully will deter some companies from doing that in the future.”