July 23, 2008 10:07 PM
Motorola Settles Trade Secrets Case For Nothing Close to $10 Billion
Posted by Brian Baxter
Renowned Florida plaintiffs lawyer Willie Gary has won plenty of big cases in his life. But the 61-year-old son of a sharecropper will have to wait a little longer for his first billion dollar damages verdict.
Gary and SPS were seeking a $10 billion windfall. But sources familiar with the agreement, which was reached as the case was set to be retried on July 28, say what Gary got was in the low tens of millions.
SPS, now out of business, filed suit against Motorola in 2002, claiming that the cell phone giant stole its idea for a vehicle-tracking system when the two had a mutual business relationship in 2000. The device had been marketed to Latin American trucking companies that were losing roughly $5 billion a year due to theft of merchandise.
Motorola, based in suburban Chicago, initially tapped Miami litigator Edward Moss from Shook, Hardy & Bacon and a team of local lawyers to defend it at trial. After two months of testimony, the case ended with a hung jury in November 2006.
In post-trial proceedings, Gary audaciously asked for nearly $200 million in attorneys fees and costs, claiming that Shook Hardy had violated a court order on witness sequestration. Gary's billing rate: a whopping $11,000 an hour.
Broward County Circuit Judge Leroy Moe agreed with Gary, ruling that defense lawyers had compromised two witnesses in providing them with expert witness testimony prior to their own court appearances. The judge sanctioned Shook Hardy, awarding plaintiffs lawyers nearly $23 million for fees and costs, and setting Gary's hourly rate at a more manageable $1,000.
Shook Hardy has vigorously contested the sanctions currently on appeal before Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach. (Shook Hardy's Moss did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the time of this post.)
Faced with the retrial, Motorola dropped Shook Hardy and turned to Faith Gay, cochair of the white collar and corporate investigations practice group at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges in New York. Serving as Gay's cocounsel were Edward DeFranco, cochair of Quinn Emanuel's national intellectual property practice, and Fort Lauderdale-based solo practitioner Bruce Zimet.
Rumors of settlement discussions between Quinn Emanuel and Gary's firm--Stuart, Fla.-based Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando--spread as the two sides participated in pretrial proceedings before Broward County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld.
By Tuesday, the parties reached an agreement that does not require court approval. Both sides then made stipulations to Judge Streitfeld that the case be dismissed.
The settlement comes while Gary faces other troubles. In early July, a former Gary secretary, who has accused the plaintiffs lawyer of sexual battery and rape, rejected Gary's proposal to settle her civil suit. Robert Critton, Jr., a name partner at West Palm Beach's Burman, Critton, Luttier & Coleman, is representing Gary in that matter.
The rising cost of fuel also has forced Gary to lease out his private jet--an aircraft appropriately named the "Wings of Justice II," which includes an 18-karat gold sink and $1.2 million sound system--for $150,000 a month.
In late July, Gary told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers that fuel for the 32-passenger Boeing 737 costs $250,000 a month. A routine roundtrip flight to a city like Atlanta can run $35,000.
Apparently that's a cost Gary's clients are no longer willing to pay. "When we were flying on a regular basis, prices weren't as high," Gary tells the newspaper. "Now, it's to a point where it's just ridiculous."
Kind of like an $11,000 hourly rate and $10 billion in damages. But at least Gary can count on some of Motorola's millions to help pay the price for personal airfare.Make a comment