Justin is a partner in the Litigation Practice Group. He assists businesses, institutions and individuals in identifying and managing litigation risk, resolving disputes and achieving their objectives. Justin navigates challenges on behalf of his clients in both state and federal courts in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Based on his strong local connections, he regularly serves as local counsel to assist attorneys in successfully navigating courts in the region.
Justin focuses his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, real estate litigation, fiduciary litigation and banking litigation. Justin also routinely advises food & agribusiness clients relative to dispute resolution and risk management.
Justin maintains a broad general commercial litigation practice where he assists clients with contractual disputes and collection matters throughout many industries. He has considerable experience representing business owners in a variety of bet-the-company cases and business divorce matters across many different industries. He also works on behalf of his clients in litigation involving non-compete agreements.
- Represented minority shareholders in contentious dispute with the other shareholders. Justin's clients were husband and wife founders of a successful manufacturing company. When the husband fell ill and required long term hospitalization, the other shareholders covertly attempted to freeze Justin’s clients out of the business through diluting their ownership interests. Justin intervened immediately by filing suit in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas and taking strategic actions to ensure that the company’s bank account could not be depleted by the other shareholders. Through applying pressure in litigation Justin was able to secure a $1.5 million dollar settlement for his clients.
- Represented a minority shareholder in a manufacturing organization. The minority shareholder was concerned about the lack of information that the majority shareholder was sharing regarding the business operations and had concerns about the financial condition of the business. Justin conducted an investigation of the corporate records and financials and discovered that almost $400,000 had been improperly withheld from the entity for which Justin’s client owned an interest. Instead, the majority shareholder had retained the funds in separate entities which he controlled and was using those funds for his personal expenses. Justin negotiated the repayment of 100% of the amount owed to his minority shareholder client, plus interest. Justin also negotiated the purchase of his client’s interest in the company at an above market valuation and secured a generous severance package for the client to be able to retire from the company.
- Represented a shareholder of a construction company in a complex shareholder dispute. The shareholder owned 50% of the company with his co-owner, who passed away unexpectedly. The co-owner controlled the finances of the company and had brought the company to the brink of financial insolvency due to poor decision making. Despite this, the shareholder agreement permitted the co-owner’s estate to receive $2 million from a key man life insurance policy. By alleging fiduciary duty breaches by the co-owner, Justin helped negotiate for the client to receive $500,000 of the key man life insurance policy to reinvest in turning around the company. Several months later, the shareholder was able to return the company to profitability.
- Represented the owner of a helicopter leasing company to assist with the repossession of a helicopter from a challenging customer in Allegheny County. The customer was several months into a lease of a helicopter and stopped completing maintenance on the helicopter and refused to cooperate with the Federal Aviation Administration’s requests for inspections. Justin and his client carefully orchestrated and executed a strategy for repossessing the helicopter, which was chained down and mechanically disabled in a locked airport facility. After successfully repossessing the helicopter in the early morning hours, the customer filed a preliminary injunction motion in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas asking the court to force Justin’s client to return the helicopter. A preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled to occur only 72 hours after the motion was filed. After Justin filed a response threatening to seek attorney’s fees and other sanctions at the injunction hearing, the customer agreed moments before the hearing was to begin to withdraw its demand to have the helicopter returned.
- Represented the minority member of a limited liability company in a shareholder dispute matter, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement for the client. The majority shareholder had frozen out the client as the company reported record profits. After a two-day hearing seeking injunctive relief, a judge granted the injunction extending beyond the relief historically awarded by courts in Pennsylvania. Almost immediately after the decision, the majority member settled the matter with a significant buyout payment to the client.
- Represented a professional services partnership and real estate partnership in a shareholder departure dispute. The departing shareholder filed an emergency petition for a special relief in the York County Court of Common Pleas, seeking a preliminary injunction related to the financial affairs of the partnerships. Justin filed preliminary objections, citing several provisions of the shareholder’s agreements that were contradictory to the departing shareholder’s claims. After a hearing on the preliminary objections, the court dismissed the petition seeking a preliminary injunction.
- Represented a company against a claim that it owed a manufacturer $130,000 for inventory it allegedly purchased. Based on the evidence and counterclaims presented at the arbitration hearing, his client was awarded judgment in its favor and the arbitrator actually awarded his client a monetary judgment against the manufacturer.
Real Estate Litigation
Justin represents design professionals (including architects and engineers), builders, contractors and subcontractors in contract disputes, tax assessment appeals and land use appeals. He also represents landlords in both commercial and residential real estate litigation.
- Secured a large settlement for a commercial landlord after damage was caused by the retailer tenant on its turnover of the property. Justin represented a national commercial retail landlord who had rented a property for several decades to a consumer goods retailer. When the retailer turned over the property, it was required by the lease to leave the property in good condition. The original estimate that Justin’s client had for the damage was $820,000. Through pressure applied by various litigation tactics in the York County Court of Common Pleas, Justin was able to secure the client a settlement of $775,000.
- Represented a property owner in contesting a mechanic’s lien action filed by an equipment company. Justin's clients were developing a commercial property for a sports complex. Their contractor walked off of the project without completing and having failed to pay subcontractors, including an equipment rental company. The equipment rental company filed a lien on the property for approximately $50,000. Justin immediately moved to strike that lien, making the argument that rented equipment was not lienable under Pennsylvania law. Although that issue had not been previously decided by a Pennsylvania court, Justin convinced the Adams County Court of Common Pleas that the equipment did not have the attributes of items that could be traditionally lienable. After oral argument, the court agreed with Justin’s position and terminated the lien.
- Represented a faith based non-profit organization in York County in a challenge by a local school district of the organization’s tax exempt status. The school district had challenged the organization’s exemption based on allegations that the organization competed with for-profit organizations for certain services. Justin helped convince the school district to withdraw its challenge, which resulted in the return to the organization of over $100,000 in taxes.
- Represented a private student housing developer in a tax assessment appeal. After the York County Board of Assessment Appeals refused to reduce the $2.7 million assessment of the property, Justin appealed the decision to the York County Court of Common Pleas. After the parties exchanged appraisals, the municipality agreed to reduce the assessment by nearly $1 million, resulting in significant tax savings of over $225,000 for the developer over the next five years.
- Teamed to represent a nonprofit regional healthcare system in pursuing a real estate tax exemption for one of its hospitals. The local school district challenged the exemption on the basis that the healthcare system did not meet the statutory requirements for a charitable real estate tax exemption under Pennsylvania law. In response, Justin and the team cited the extensive charitable care provided by the healthcare system as well as its compliance with the highly complex statutory requirements for a charitable exemption. After a two day trial, the York County Court of Common Pleas granted a full exemption for the property and confirmed the system’s positive contributions to community health. The school district has appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The decision resulted in millions of dollars of tax savings.
- Represented the owner of one of the most valuable properties in a suburban Philadelphia County in a tax assessment appeal. On the day before trial, Justin brokered a settlement that reduced the tax valuation of the property by nearly $12 million, amounting to considerable tax savings for the client.
- Represented a commercial real estate developer in an appeal involving its attempt to construct private college housing. The developer had obtained final approval of its land development plan, only to see the municipality change the zoning ordinance and join in an appeal of neighboring landowners against the development. After successfully appealing an adverse initial trial court decision to Commonwealth Court, Justin persuaded the trial court to allow the development to be constructed with minor changes. Based on the evidence presented to the court, the judge also ruled that the municipality acted in bad faith.
- Presented oral argument before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in support of a favorable outcome Barley Snyder obtained for a York City industrial property owner in a tax assessment appeal. The trial court’s conclusion on the value of the property represented a six-figure tax savings for the property owner over the next several years. After oral argument, the state affirmed the trial court’s tax reduction.
Justin assists trust companies, banks and individuals with guardianships and disputes involving wills, powers of attorney and estate administration.
- Represented the executor of an estate in a contentious will contest dispute with his brother over his father’s estate. After Justin's client went to probate his father’s will, his brother surfaced with a purported alternative will/contract that he claimed entitled him to a larger share of the estate. At a trial before the Berks County Court of Common Pleas- Orphan’s Court Division, using various evidentiary rules, Justin successfully precluded the brother from providing a shred of testimony at trial. After the trial and a post-trial oral argument, the court ruled in favor of Justin’s client, dismissing the brother’s attempts to overturn the original will.
- Represented two beneficiaries of their late aunt’s estate. The beneficiaries’ aunt had passed away in 2005, but the estate administration was delayed by for over a decade by the executor of the estate. The beneficiaries asked Justin to investigate when their proposed distributions seemed to be far less than anticipated. When Justin’s initial demand for information on the finances of the estate was ignored, Justin initiated an accounting action in the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas’ Orphan’s Court Division. After having the court ordered production of the finances, Justin uncovered nearly that over $300,000 had been misappropriated by the executor and used to fund the executor’s business for the past decade. Justin negotiated the immediate return of 100% of the misappropriated funds at a heightened interest rate and payment by the executor of all attorney’s fees and court costs incurred in uncovering the misappropriation. The total amount recovered by Justin’s clients totaled nearly $500,000.
- Represented the beneficiary of an estate in a will contest dispute with his stepsisters in Berks County. Upon the death of their client’s father, no will could be found and pursuant to Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws, their client would have received the entire estate. However, the stepsisters surfaced and alleged that their stepfather had created a handwritten will that split his estate equally among his son and the stepsisters. At trial, Justin’s cross examination exposed the flaws in both the stepsisters’ testimony and the purported handwritten will. The judge entered a decision rejecting the handwritten will and affirming Barley's clients would be the sole beneficiary of the six-figure estate.
- Represented the beneficiary of the estate of his late mother. Their client’s late mother’s will left her assets to her son and had appointed her accountant to serve as executor and trustee of her estate proceeds. However, when the mother had unexpectedly passed away, a large portion of her funds from a real estate transaction were held in a joint account owned by the late mother and her accountant. The accountant suggested that under the Pennsylvania Multi-Party Account Act, the funds in the account belonged to the accountant, not the son. Justin quickly compiled a petition to force the accountant to turn the over the funds. In response, the accountant reversed course and agreed that she no longer was going to claim that she wanted the funds, but she now wanted to serve as trustee of the trust created to benefit the son by the late mother’s will. Justin pushed back again and demanded that based on the accountant’s actions, she should have no role in the estate. After threatening further litigation, the accountant completely backed down and turned over all of the funds and abandoned all involvement with the trust.
- Defended different professional guardians in two actions in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas – Orphans Court Division seeking to remove them from their appointment. In one case, two of the four children alleged that the guardian was overbilling the estate and not providing sufficient communication. In the other matter, one of the four children was challenging the guardian’s decision to keep her mother living in the family home, rather than a nursing facility. In both cases, Justin secured orders that maintained the guardians in place despite the allegations, which were discounted by the court.
- Part of a Barley Snyder team that successfully defended an executor in response to a petition to remove that executor in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas – Orphan’s Court Division. Two children of the decedent alleged that the executor had mismanaged funds and items of personal property. The Barley team responded aggressively to the allegations as false and misleading. At the hearing, the court dismissed the case without the need for the executor to put on any evidence. The court also awarded sanctions in favor of the executor.
- Successfully represented an individual in a contempt hearing in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas. The contempt hearing arose from a dispute between a recently divorced couple regarding payment obligations for their child’s college tuition. In response to the husband’s petition for contempt, Justin was retained to represent the wife in defense of the petition. After a hearing, the court dismissed the husband’s petition without the need for the wife to put on any evidence, finding that the wife was not in contempt of the separation agreement.
- Represented the power of attorney agent for the incapacitated individual. The agent had been appointed by his father to watch over his financial affairs and medical care. The agent’s sister attempted to have the agent removed by the York County Court of Common Pleas-Orphans’ Court division. Justin presented a defense which included exposing the sister’s intent to have herself replaced as the agent for her father, wherein she would pay herself significant payments for her services. After an emergency hearing, the court dismissed the sister’s petition and reaffirmed Justin’s client as the valid power of attorney agent.
- Represented the beneficiary of a trust after the trustee misappropriated nearly $200,000 in trust funds over the course of several years. Justin uncovered that the trustee was making unauthorized loans from the trust to himself and his business and was not repaying those loans. Justin successfully petitioned the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas-Orphans’ Court Division to remove the trustee and hold him in contempt of court. Justin also involved the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office’s Elder Abuse Division to conduct a parallel investigation, which resulted in a guilty plea, a restitution order, and the trustee being imprisoned.
- Represented an estate in a preliminary injunction matter brought by a beneficiary. The beneficiary of the multimillion dollar estate claimed that he was entitled to certain water rights on a property he owned neighboring the property owned by the estate. Justin defended the matter aggressively for the estate and at the preliminary injunction hearing, obtained a non-suit dismissal of the case after the presentation of the beneficiary’s evidence.
- Represented the beneficiaries of a trust for the collection of an inter-family undocumented loan in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas. Justin navigated a complex set of facts and evidentiary issues, including that the initial balance of the loan having been incurred 30 years before and that the only surviving party to the loan with capacity was the debtor himself. The debtor argued that the loan was a gift, instead of a loan. The debtor also filed a cross claim against his ex-wife, who was one of the beneficiaries of the trust, claiming that she was responsible for any loan balance. After a trial, the judge confirmed the existence of the loan and awarded Justin’s client a $72,500 judgment. The judge also dismissed the cross claim against the ex-wife beneficiary, finding that she was not liable under the loan.
- Represented a guardian overseeing an elderly individual with significant assets. For years, the children of the individual battled over control of their mother’s assets by challenging her incapacity finding, often resulting in monthly orphan’s court proceedings. After convincing the trial court to maintain the incapacity finding and maintain the guardianship intact, the children took the appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. After Justin argued before the appellate panel, the decision of the trial court was affirmed.
- Represented a client in an action to recover her interest in a property she owned with her ex-husband. The ex-husband refused to sell the property or make payment to his ex-wife. His attorney raised various legal defenses to the sale or liquidation of the property. However, a trial court rejected the ex-husband’s defenses and ordered the property to be sold or the ex-wife’s interest liquidated. In response to the court’s order, the ex-husband made payment to the ex-wife in the amount of $120,000.
- Helped represent a widow in a claim to obtain a share of her deceased husband’s IRA account. The widow’s stepchildren had contested her right to receive these funds. The stepchildren appealed the trial court decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court where Justin and a Barley Snyder team successfully defended the trial court’s decision in a case of first impression at the appellate level. The client received close to $200,000 as a result of the victory.
Justin represents financial institutions in prosecuting and defending against various claims related to cybersecurity, external fraud and the Uniform Commercial Code, among others. Justin also represents financial institutions in addressing legal process issues, including responding to subpoenas and garnishments.
- Secured dismissal of a banking client from a claim in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by a customer alleging that the bank had improperly frozen and terminated the customer’s bank account. The customer was a publicly elected official engaged in inappropriate activity relative to the account, which held public funds. Shortly after the customer filed the complaint which sought millions of dollars for recovery, Justin filed a motion to dismiss which the court granted. This allowed for early disposal of the case without need for discovery or a trial.
- Secured summary judgment in a case with over $1 million in exposure for a banking client. A real estate developement customer of the bank alleged that the bank failed to timely record a mortgage satisfaction piece for a property once encumbered by mortgages from the bank. The developer filed suit seeking a judgment of $1,025,000 from the bank under the Mortgage Satisfaction Act. After conducting targeted discovery, the court accepted the bank’s argument that the developer had failed to comply with certain provisions of the Mortgage Satisfaction Act and the bank had also acted in good faith. Upon consideration of competing summary judgment motions from the bank and the developer, the court promptly granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of the developer’s claims. The developer appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and the decision was upheld.
- Represented a bank in a case that had been appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by a mortgagor following a successful motion for summary judgment in a foreclosure action in Mifflin County involving a large commercial tract. On appeal, the mortgagor alleged several substantive and procedural defects to the loan and asked the Pennsylvania appellate courts to reverse the summary judgment order. After unsuccessfully appealing to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the mortgagor asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take the case. After Justin defended the decision of the Superior Court and trial court in its response, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the mortgagor’s appeal and found in favor of the bank.
- Represented a national bank in a claim brought in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas by a secondary beneficiary of a six-figure IRA held by the bank. The beneficiary petitioned the court asking for an order forcing the bank to ignore the beneficiary designation’s instructions which required the funds be issued to a trust. The beneficiary also asked the court to sanction the bank for refusing to cooperate with the proposed bypass of the primary beneficiary. Once retained by the bank, Justin convinced the beneficiary only days before the hearing to withdraw his petition and acknowledge that the IRA funds would only be payable to the primary beneficiary.