Houston Appeals Court Delivers Take-Nothing Judgment in Trade Secrets Case
April 1, 2014
HOUSTON – A Houston appeals court has cleared a group of defendants in a trade secret misappropriation case by overturning an earlier $4.4 million judgment and awarding a take-nothing judgment.
Houston commercial litigation firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, successfully represented Milo Nickel and Michael LeBlanc, former executives of Plaintiff MBI Global LLC. The company, which manufactures modular blast-resistant buildings, accused the men of breaching their fiduciary duty, and misappropriating trade secrets to launch a competing business with co-defendant Hunter Buildings & Manufacturing, L.P. This win was featured in the Law 360 story “Texas Court Reverses $4.4M Verdict In MBI Trade Secrets Suit” (subscription required).
“MBI tried to fight us in the courtroom instead of in the marketplace,” says Todd Mensing of AZA, lead trial counsel for Mr. Nickel and Mr. LeBlanc. “Two of MBI’s best people left, and they brought revenge litigation. I’m proud that our clients didn’t falter in the face of the court’s judgment, and stood their ground in this appeal.”
In 2011, Mr. Mensing and AZA’s Benjamin Foster parachuted into the trial five days before jury selection, along with Howard Close and Randy Owens of Wright & Close, who represented co-defendant Hunter Buildings. Before trial MBI claimed damages of at least $100 million, but was awarded $4.4 million, with jurors issuing zero-responsibility findings against Nickel and LeBlanc. Despite this, the trial court ruled all the defendants were liable for the verdict.
On March 27, Harris County’s 14th Court of Appeals said the trial court erred by disregarding the jury’s zero-responsibility finding for Mr. Nickel and Mr. LeBlanc, and also ruled that the evidence didn’t show the defendants caused MBI’s alleged damages. A take-nothing judgment was entered in favor of all the defendants. The case is Hunter Buildings & Manufacturing, L.P., Hunter Buildings, L.L.C., Hunter Buildings International, L.L.C., BBG Group, L.L.C., Milo Nickel, and Thomas Michael LeBlanc, Appellants v. MBI Global, L.L.C. Appellee No. 14-12-00246-CV.
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, securities fraud, construction and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2014 as among the best in Texas commercial law and by U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms in the 2014 listing of the nation’s leading law firms. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000. AZA has been hired on many occasions by the same companies the firm has prevailed against at trial. Read more at https://www.azalaw.com.