Plaintiffs Score East Texas Wins Against Google, Globus
Is the tide finally turning for plaintiffs in the federal courtrooms of East Texas?
Defendants defied the region's plaintiff-friendly reputation last year, winning three-quarters of the trials held in the Lone Star state's Eastern District. But juries there delivered two plaintiffs verdicts on Friday, including one secured by former Eastern District judge Charles "Chad" Everingham IV, now at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Akin Gump's client is Sabatino Bianco, an Italian-born spinal surgeon living in Dallas. He claims to have invented a spacer system that makes spinal surgery safer. Bianco sued the medical device company Globus Medical Inc. for trade secrets misappropriation in 2012, alleging he confidentially shared his ideas with Globus executives and that the company later incorporated them in patent applications. Globus, which is represented by a Duane Morris team led by Thomas Sankey, countered that it employed its own spinal experts who independently came up with the technology.
The case culminated in a week-long trial before Judge William Bryson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, sitting by designation in U.S. district court in Marshall, Texas. It was Everingham's first trial since stepping down from his Eastern District of Texas judgeship to join Akin Gump in October 2011. Bianco was also represented by Akin Gump partner Steven Zager, who leads the firm's patent litigation practice.
After three hours of deliberation on Friday, jurors sided with Bianco and awarded him $4.3 million in lost profits. Zager said in an interview that the verdict could end up being worth much more. That's because Bryson has yet to rule on future damages, which Zager said are "much more significant."
Sankey, Globus' lawyer, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Also on Friday, a different jury in Marshall returned a verdict that Google Inc. infringed patents owned by a nonpracticing entity called SimpleAir Inc. Instead of awarding damages, however, the jurors left that part of the verdict slip blank. (Why? We wondered the same thing and will let you know if we get an answer.) The case was before Judge Rodney Gilstrap. Kilpatrick Stockton & Townsend represents Google. Two smaller firms, Dovel & Luner and Capshaw DeRieux, represent SimpleAir.
The Eastern District of Texas developed its reputation as a plaintiffs' haven when defendants famously lost 90 percent of cases there between 2001 and 2006. We first reported on last year's defense hot streak in July, and according to local practitioner Michael Smith's blog, defendants went on to win 11 of 15 trials in the district in 2013.