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November 7, 2008 9:30 AM

LITIGATORS OF THE WEEK: Barry Lee and Robert Zeavin of Manatt Phelps

Posted by Ed Shanahan

From The Am Law Litigation Daily

Before this year, Barry Lee and Robert Zeavin had never tried a case together. But after winning a $600 million-plus verdict, they may want to team up on a more regular basis. This summer the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips duo represented ICO Global Communications Holdings in a three-month breach of contract trial against Boeing in Los Angeles superior court. The jury kept them waiting for three long weeks of deliberations but on October 21 awarded ICO a whopping $370.6 million in compensatory damages. Then last Friday, the same jury tacked on another $236 million in punitive damages. When prejudgment interest is added to the total, Lee told us, the award is expected to end up north of $700 million--which would make it the largest trial verdict of 2008. (Boeing, which was represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson, has announced it will appeal.)

For those not familiar with the case, it's rooted in a contract for 12 satellites that ICO signed with Hughes Electronics in the 1990s. When Boeing purchased Hughes in 2000, it took over the contract--and promptly demanded an additional $400 million from ICO to build the remaining satellites. ICO claimed that Boeing, now a competitor, had jacked up prices in an effort to drive ICO out of business. At trial, Lee told us, he asked jurors to award ICO as much as $1.5 billion for the busted business deal.

The trial began in June and lasted all summer. Given the case's length and complexity, we wondered if Lee or Zeavin had any tips to offer Litigation Daily readers.

"The longer you can keep together your core team through discovery and trial, the far better presentation and representation you're going to give to the client," Lee advised. "That's something we all know, but this case drove it home with the way our team worked together, as coordinated we were. The fact that we had the core of the team through discovery and trial was just tremendously helpful."

Zeavin stressed his side's presentation to the jury. "We had a very, very coherent theory of our claims that we tied to the facts," he said. "Boeing's theory of the case was much more of a legal theory that was not really tied to the evidence available to them."

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