The big­gest court­room wins of 2018

Houston Chronicle - - TEXAS INC - By Natalie Pos­gate

Be­lieve it or not, lit­i­ga­tion of­ten rises to the level of lit­er­a­ture; re­gard­less of the out­come, there’s usu­ally a good story to tell.

The cases that un­folded in 2018 were no ex­cep­tion.

Some lit­i­ga­tion wins made it on this list due to their sheer dol­lar value or high-pro­file na­ture. Oth­ers re­quired ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­forts by the lawyers in­volved. Some were just im­por­tant for the peo­ple of Texas.

These are our top 10 picks for the most im­por­tant lit­i­ga­tion wins in 2018.

An an­titrust win for AT&T against the DOJ

When AT&T an­nounced plans to merge with Time Warner for $85 bil­lion in Oc­to­ber 2016, AT&T Gen­eral Coun­sel David McA­tee knew the com­pany would likely have to con­tend with a Depart­ment of Jus­tice chal­lenge. Just two years be­fore, the tele­com gi­ant had lost its bid for T-Mo­bile over just such an an­titrust claim.

In Novem­ber 2017, DOJ took the Time-Warner ac­qui­si­tion to court. But by June, AT&T ex­ec­u­tives, lawyers and their sup­port staff were toast­ing a slam-dunk vic­tory.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard Leon had ruled that a six-week trial had failed to prove that the AT&T-Time Warner merger was anti-com­pet­i­tive.

Said one of the AT&T lawyers, later: “We tried the case the old-fash­ioned way: We con­tested ev­ery fact. We chal­lenged ev­ery wit­ness. We won ev­ery day.”

An­other win for AT&T, this one in Cal­i­for­nia

Au­gust brought an­other slam­dunk vic­tory for AT&T when a fed­eral judge in Cal­i­for­nia handed the com­pany a win against the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion.

The FTC charged that the com­pany’s DirecTV sub­sidiary had mis­led cus­tomers by fail­ing to dis­close key terms to its dis­counted pric­ing: a two-year con­tract, a $20 early ter­mi­na­tion fee and an opt-out to avoid monthly charges for premium chan­nels. The FTC had asked for $3.95 mil­lion in resti­tu­tion.

After a nine-day bench trial, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Hay­wood Gil­liam found that the re­quire­ments were “ad­e­quately and ac­cu­rately dis­closed.”

In a mat­ter of months, all re­main­ing FTC charges were dropped.

A ‘water­shed’ de­ci­sion for Texas fos­ter care chil­dren

It’s a case that has been go­ing on since at least 2005, and it could still be far from over.

Nev­er­the­less, in Oc­to­ber a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 5th Cir­cuit up­held a se­ries of rul­ings by U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ja­nis Gra­ham Jack that Texas of­fi­cials had been “de­lib­er­ately in­dif­fer­ent” to the plight of 12,000 chil­dren in long-term fos­ter care for whom “rape, abuse, psy­chotropic med­i­ca­tion and in­sta­bil­ity are the norm.”

Credit goes to a team of Hous­ton and Dal­las lawyers from Yet­ter Cole­man and Haynes and Boone.

A $178.5 mil­lion ar­bi­tra­tion award in an old as­bestos case

In late Oc­to­ber, Beau­mont firm Provost Um­phrey won a to­tal of $178.5 mil­lion for a class of 2,299 plain­tiffs — pri­mar­ily res­i­dents of the Beau­mont area — who were ex­posed to as­bestos be­tween 1985 and 1987 while work­ing at re­fin­ery and chem­i­cal plants in South­east Texas.

The ar­bi­tra­tion award marked the end of 28 years of lit­i­ga­tion, in­ter­rupted by a Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy fil­ing by de­fen­dant Pitts­burgh Corn­ing Corp. By the time a $4 bil­lion trust was cre­ated to com­pen­sate vic­tims, most of the orig­i­nal plain­tiffs had died, and many of their heirs were dis­placed by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

A med­i­cal mal­prac­tice case that ac­tu­ally went to trial

In Jan­uary, an East Texas jury ruled that Tyler-based East Texas Med­i­cal Cen­ter com­mit­ted gross neg­li­gence when it al­lowed a doc­tor who had been on pro­ba­tion to treat a pa­tient with cholan­gi­tis.

The jury awarded $46 mil­lion to the pa­tient, Billy Pierce, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive who has been un­able to re­turn to work since his 2014 hos­pi­tal­iza­tion. Though Pierce’s at­tor­neys had asked for only $20 mil­lion, the jury’s ver­dict in­cluded $25 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages be­cause the “ev­i­dence was so egre­gious.”

A Dal­las fam­ily wins $242 mil­lion against Toy­ota

An Au­gust show­down be­tween two Dal­las par­ents and Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp. pit­ted vet­eran plain­tiffs’ lawyer Frank Bran­son against Barnes & Thorn­burg’s charis­matic Vic­tor Vi­tal for Toy­ota in a three-week trial. Bran­son won.

A Dal­las jury ruled that Toy­ota-de­signed seat­ing was re­spon­si­ble for per­ma­nent brain dam­age suf­fered by two chil­dren when their fam­ily Lexus was rear-ended in a 2016 crash. It was Toy­ota’s first ma­jor trial in North Texas since mov­ing its head­quar­ters from Cal­i­for­nia to Plano in 2017.

Vir­netX’s wins to the tune of $502 mil­lion against Ap­ple

In April, an East Texas fed­eral jury ruled Ap­ple wrongly ap­pro-

pri­ated tech­nol­ogy owned by Ne­vada-based Vir­netX that is vi­tal to FaceTime tech­nol­ogy. The ver­dict was the fourth in an on­go­ing se­ries of patent dis­putes be­tween the two com­pa­nies.

Vir­netX was rep­re­sented by Cald­well Cas­sady Curry, a bud­ding Dal­las­based firm that has made quite the liv­ing de­feat­ing Ap­ple in ver­dicts to­tal­ing more than $1 bil­lion.

An­other ver­dict against Ap­ple (on its home turf )

In Au­gust, Ap­ple lost a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar patent in­fringe­ment ver­dict to yet an­other Texas firm — this time, McKool Smith in Ap­ple’s home state of Cal­i­for­nia.

Ot­tawa-based WiLAN won a $145 mil­lion ver­dict on claims that Ap­ple in­fringed on the com­pany’s pa­tented voice-over-LTE wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy in sev­eral of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 de­vices.

A $30 mil­lion feud over a fam­ily busi­ness

It was a case that had $30 mil­lion at stake, but money was the last thing this case was about.

A Hous­ton jury on Oct. 4 awarded a take-noth­ing ver­dict to three brothers who were sued by their two other brothers for $30 mil­lion — al­leg­ing fraud, se­cu­ri­ties vi­o­la­tions and breach of fidu­ciary duty of their fam­ily busi­ness, Com­pres­sor En­gi­neer­ing Corp.

The sib­ling ri­valry arose in 2016 after CECO had re­cov­ered from a fi­nan­cial cri­sis caused by a $6 mil­lion fraud­u­lent in­voice that got ap­proved in the com­pany’s Ohio and Penn­syl­va­nia op­er­a­tions. It caused CECO to face fore­clo­sure and jeop­ar­dized more than 400 jobs.

Huge share­holder suit against Pier 1 dis­missed

Fort Worth-based Pier 1 Im­ports had a rough 2018, with slump­ing sales and the sud­den de­par­ture of its CEO.

But at least one dark cloud was averted when a Dal­las fed­eral judge dis­missed a pu­ta­tive share­holder class ac­tion brought by the Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees’ Re­tire­ment Sys­tem of Michi­gan al­leg­ing two for­mer Pier 1 ex­ec­u­tives mis­rep­re­sented the com­pany’s fi­nan­cial health.

Lisa Poole / As­so­ci­ated Press file

AT&T came out on top in its bat­tle with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice over whether it should be able to merge with Time Warner. It also won a Cal­i­for­nia case in which it tan­gled with the FTC.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.