Two courtroom verdicts won by attorneys from Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP are being recognized among the top jury awards of 2012 by the publishers of Texas Lawyer and VerdictSearch, the leading guide to U.S. verdicts.
Gardere's Craig B. Florence, Randy D. Gordon and Rachel Kingrey worked alongside Mikal Watts and Frank Guerra of Corpus Christi's Watts Guerra Craft LLP to win a $162 million verdict for client Longview Energy Co. in a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit involving leases in the Eagle Ford Shale. The jury award ranked as the third-largest verdict in the state during 2012, and the final judgment of more than $500 million is considered the largest-ever in a legal dispute involving the Eagle Ford Shale.
Jurors in Longview Energy Company v. The Huff Energy Fund L.P. et al., found that directors Bill Huff and Rick D'Angelo used The Huff Energy Fund portfolio company, Riley-Huff Energy Group, to breach their fiduciary duty by covertly securing approximately 46,000 Eagle Ford leasehold acres that were being explored by Longview Energy.
The final judgment ordered Riley-Huff to transfer title to the Eagle Ford leased acres and all related wells and production facilities to Longview Energy. The defendants also were ordered to pay Longview Energy $95.5 million for past revenues, in addition to production proceeds earned from the leasehold acres. The judgment carried an award of 5 percent annual post-judgment interest.
Gardere Litigation Partners Mark A. Mayfield and Mark T. Mitchell won a $4.5 million verdict for plaintiffs William Bishop and Pinnacle Potash International in a theft of trade secrets case. The jury award in William M. Bishop, et al. v. E. Barger Miller II ranked as the state's 10th largest Contracts Law verdict during 2012. Mr. Mitchell earned "Litigator of the Week" honors from Texas Lawyer based on the victory.
Mr. Bishop, an engineer, developed a new and untested system to inject brine into salt deposits underground and then retrieve the material through a proprietary method that mitigates the detrimental environmental effects of mining potash, a primary ingredient in plant fertilizers. Mr. Bishop formed a partnership with the defendant, E. Barger Miller II, and intended to acquire leases from the federal government to utilize the technology he developed, which was patented during the course of the litigation. Mr. Miller then purchased Reunion Potash Co., which owned the federal leases, as a means to utilize Mr. Bishop's technology. After excluding Mr. Bishop from his plan, Mr. Miller then hired independent consultants with whom he shared Mr. Bishop's patented ideas.
Asserting claims of theft of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and partnership issues of first impression during the three-week trial, the Gardere team persuaded jurors to award damages based on a reasonable-royalty damage model even though their client incurred no lost profits.
Texas Lawyer is a member of the American Lawyer Media family and provides coverage of the Texas legal market to more than 16,300 members of the Lone Star legal community. Texas Lawyer compiles the Top Texas Verdicts annually by examining cases reported by its VerdictSearch affiliate.