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Charles N. Ash Jr.

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  • Grand Rapids

    t. +1.616.752.2490

    f. +1.616.752.2500

Biography

Charles is a litigator with extensive experience representing businesses in complex contract and tort litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country. He has successfully represented global manufacturers, handled several cases with over $100 million at stake and represented two creditors in the city of Detroit's historic bankruptcy case.
 

Industries

Education

  • Stanford University J.D. 1998
  • Calvin College B.A. 1995

Admitted

  • 1998, California
  • 1999, Michigan

Courts

  • California State Courts
  • Michigan State Courts
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan
  • United States District Courts for the Central District of California

Bar Associations

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • State Bar of California

Experience

  • Ryan Racing, LLC v. Paul Gentilozzi, et al., U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan. Lead trial counsel for Ryan Hunter-Reay – professional race car driver for Andretti Autosport and the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion. In 2005, when Mr. Hunter-Reay was an up-and-coming driver, he raced for a Michigan-based team, Rocketsports Racing, which is owned by Paul Gentilozzi.  Mr. Gentilozzi terminated Mr. Hunter-Reay in violation of his contract and then set out to ruin Mr. Hunter-Reay’s reputation in the industry. Mr. Hunter-Reay arbitrated the wrongful termination with Mr. Gentilozzi and was awarded $2.7 million.  After converting the award into a judgment, Mr. Hunter-Reay sought to collect, but Mr. Gentilozzi stymied his efforts by creating a sham company.  Mr. Gentilozzi named the new company “RSR” and shifted assets to RSR, but claimed the $2.7 million owed to Mr. Hunter-Reay was a debt of the old company. Mr. Gentilozzi had run Rocketsports Racing over the years without regard to corporate formalities, benefiting himself and others at the expense of the company’s creditors. Mr. Hunter-Reay filed suit in federal court in Michigan to collect his $2.7 million judgment under theories of successor liability, fraudulent transfer, and piercing the corporate veil.    
     
    After a five day bench trial, Judge Robert Holmes Bell ruled in favor of Mr. Hunter-Reay. In particular, Judge Bell pierced the corporate veil and held that Rocketsports was a mere instrumentality of Mr. Gentilozzi. Additionally, the Court ruled that RSR was a successor of Rocketsports, and therefore was liable for payment of the arbitration award.  Judge Bell entered the $2.7 million judgment against Mr. Gentilozzi personally and RSR. Click here for the full text of Judge Bell’s Opinion and here for the article “Why an Indy 500 winner sued Lansing real estate tycoon Paul Gentilozzi.”
  • Miller, et al. v. State of Utah, et al., U.S. District Court, District of Utah – Represented NorthStar Energy as the minority interest owner and operator of a silver mine in Utah concerning the reclamation of the mine site. The State of Utah ordered NorthStar to reclaim the mine in 2010. Two years after the reclamation, the plaintiffs alleged damages in excess of ten million dollars against the State of Utah, various individual state employees and NorthStar. The dispute spanned several years and involved numerous factual and legal disputes, especially the value of different aspects of the mine (at different points in time) and certain property on the mine site. The dispute also involved the issues related to the feasibility of mine operations and the integrity of the sampling process related to the same. NorthStar settled the case on favorable terms.
  • In re City of Detroit, Michigan, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan – Michigan counsel for UBS AG and Merrill Lynch Capital Services in the historic bankruptcy proceeding for the City of Detroit.  UBS and MLCS settled with the City, based on claims arising from swap agreements and other agreements, and ultimately won court approval of the settlement over the strenuous objections of the insurers and other creditors.
  • In the NPM Adjustment Proceedings, JAMS Arbitration – Represented the State of Michigan as special assistant attorney general and trial counsel on a $1.2 billion arbitration claim brought by the major tobacco companies against U.S. states and territories under the landmark Master Settlement Agreement – the 1998 settlement of the Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of tobacco-related healthcare costs. Along with other states, Michigan settled on favorable terms and continues to receive payments from the tobacco companies under the Master Settlement Agreement.
  • Frontier Energy L.L.C. v. Aurora Energy Ltd., U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Michigan – Lead trial counsel for Aurora Energy (n/k/a NorthStar Energy, a northern Michigan natural gas operator and working interest owner) as the defendant in a multimillion dollar dispute with one of its largest royalty owners. This dispute involved many issues in wide-ranging areas of oil and gas law, including the reasonably prudent operator standard, various terms and conditions in the State of Michigan form of lease, various terms and conditions in a payout clause, deductions from royalty for certain types of post-production costs, treatment/processing and transportation of gas, and the relationship between affiliated entities, as well as the relationships among up-stream entities, mid-stream entities and down-stream entities. After the presentation of the plaintiff’s case-in-chief, the court granted Aurora’s motion to dismiss all but one of the plaintiff’s claims. The full presentation of the proofs at trial spanned 10 days. As to the plaintiff's remaining claim, the court did not find Aurora to be liable for any damages.
  • LG Electronics USA, Inc. v. Whirlpool Corporation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois - Member of trial team who successfully represented Whirlpool as the defendant in a false advertising case under the Lanham Act and Illinois state law. The plaintiff in the case sought $85 million in damages, but, after a three-week trial, the jury did not award any damages. The court entered judgment in favor of Whirlpool and against the plaintiff on each one of the plaintiff’s causes of action, ending in a complete victory for Whirlpool. The plaintiff did not appeal.
  • Michigan Department of Transportation v. Aero-Bulk Carrier, et. al., Ingham County Circuit Court, Michigan - Represented subsidiary of national trucking company in connection with Michigan Department of Transportation's claim that the trucking company should be held liable for more than $1 million in alleged damages to an overpass, despite the existence of a No-Fault insurance policy. Successfully obtained summary disposition in favor of Aero-Bulk.
  • National Insurance Counsel, Gainey Corporation, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Michigan - Represented national trucking company in bankruptcy court on all insurance-related matters arising out of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
  • Intrastate Distributors, Inc. v. Energy Brands, Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan - Represented Energy Brands (d/b/a Glacéau) in connection with the termination of its former distributor for Southeast Michigan. After receiving the notice of termination from Energy Brands, the distributor sued Energy Brands for breach of contract and violation of Michigan's Franchise Investment Law. In addition, the distributor sued Coca-Cola (the parent company of Energy Brands) and Coca-Cola Enterprises (the new distributor) for tortious interference with contract and violation of the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act.
  • Zurich Insurance Company v. S.C. Johnson, Inc., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin - Represented Zurich in connection with a $100 million claim submitted by S.C. Johnson under a fidelity/employee dishonesty policy. For its claim, S.C. Johnson alleged that its former director of transportation engaged in a systematic practice of receiving bribes and kick-backs from various transportation vendors in exchange for payments for services at above-market rates and other favorable treatment.
  • Gary Player and World Services Establishment v. Gary Player Golf.com, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida - Represented world-renowned professional golfer Gary Player in a licensing dispute involving the Gary Player-branded golf clubs. Obtained victory after victory for Mr. Player during the litigation, ultimately culminating in the entry of a permanent injunction against the defendant and a multimillion dollar judgment in Mr. Player's favor.
  • Tower Automotive Products Co., Inc v. UNOVA Industrial Automotive Systems, Inc., Kent County Circuit Court, Michigan - Represented a tier-one automotive supplier in a breach of warranty action against an integrator/supplier of a turnkey SUV frame assembly line. Resulted in the integrator/supplier paying $13,500,000 to settle the case.
  • Convergent Group Corporation v. The County of Kent, U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan - Represented one of Michigan's largest counties in defense of the claims of a Denver-based software company for over $1,500,000 in damages relating to the failed implementation of a customized software program for the county-wide property tax administration system. Settled the case on favorable terms to the county.
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Gainey Corporation, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts - Defended a national trucking company and pursued its counter-claim in a lawsuit filed by the trucking company's insurance carrier claiming that the trucking company was required to post an additional $16,000,000 in letter of credit collateral to secure deductibles. Successfully defended the trucking company and negotiated a settlement of the trucking company's counter-claim that resulted in a reduction in the collateral posted by the trucking company.
  • Ricky and Susan Young v. Gainey Transportation Services, Inc., Kent County Circuit Court, Michigan - Represented a national trucking company in defense of a third-party no-fault claim where the plaintiff alleged permanent brain damage and other serious injuries. After a four-week jury trial, resulted in jury verdict far less than plaintiff's $4,000,000 demand.
  • Linn Products, Inc. v. Arnold Parker, Inc., d/b/a Walgren Company, Eaton County Circuit Court, Michigan - Defended a manufacturer of metal finishing systems in a high stakes, "bet the company" suit brought by one of the company's former customers for breach of warranty relating to an anodizing system purchased by the former customer. Settled the case for a fraction of the former customer's $7,000,000 damage claim, which allowed the manufacturer to remain in business.
  • Independent Bank Corporation, et al. v. Edward M. Walder, et al., Ionia County Circuit Court, Michigan and Cook County Circuit Court, Illinois - Represented a publicly traded Michigan bank in related state court cases in Illinois and Michigan on the bank's multimillion dollar indemnification claim for accounting improprieties, misrepresentations, and breaches of the merger agreement against former shareholders of a Chicago-based company acquired by the bank. Also defended the bank against the former shareholders' claims that the bank failed to pay the required merger consideration. Negotiated a settlement for the bank resulting in the dismissal of the claims of the former shareholders and a $2,800,000 payment to the bank by the former shareholders.
  • Sarah Malloy and Michelle Mitchell v. Art Van Furniture, AAA Arbitration, Grand Rapids, Michigan - Represented two former female sales associates of Michigan's largest furniture retailer in sexual harassment actions. Following two separate one-week arbitrations, received compensatory damage awards in both cases and a punitive damage award in one case.
  • United Rentals v. Terry Grasman, et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan - Represented Terry Grasman in an action brought by United Rentals for the alleged breach of the covenant-not-to-compete executed by Mr. Grasman in connection with the sale of his family's heavy-equipment rental business to United Rentals. Also involved causes of action by United Rentals to prevent Mr. Grasman's sons from running a competing business. Negotiated a favorable settlement.

Honors & Awards

  • Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation, 2017-Present
  • Named to Michigan Super Lawyers 2011-Present
  • Named as a Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star, 2009-10

News

Publications

Leadership

Community Affiliations

  • Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation
    Board Chair, Board of Directors
  • Calvin College
    Member of Alumni Association Board
  • Student Advancement Foundation
    Board Member
  • Leadership West Michigan
    Class of 2011
  • Leadership Grand Rapids
    Class of 2013

Speaking Engagements

  • "How to Utilize Proportionality & Cost Shifting Strategies," Data Solutions Fall Symposium, Grand Rapids, Michigan, October 23, 2015
  • "The Latest in Federal and State Cases in E-Discovery," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, on-demand webcast, March 19, 2013

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