Judge Orders $23 Million Payment to Lawyers After Hung Jury

By | April 25, 2007

A judge in Florida has ordered Motorola Inc. to pay $22.9 million in attorneys fees and costs to lawyers for a now-defunct technology company, months after a trade secrets lawsuit ended in a hung jury.

Circuit Judge Leroy Moe ruled that the law firm headed by prominent attorney Willie Gary was due money based on Motorola’s alleged poor conduct during the trial against SPS Technologies Corp. But the award was much less than the $200 million in fees, costs and restitution sought by Gary’s firm, and the judge did not even address the issue of restitution or sanctions in his ruling.

“Certainly, it was a huge rejection of Mr. Gary’s case,” said Motorola attorney Faith Gay, who said the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company would appeal. “Our feeling is there isn’t a basis in law or fact for the award of sanctions.”

Gary said after the trial that the judge’s ruling sent a message to Motorola that “you can’t cheat and get away with it.”

“The $22.9 million for fees and costs, obviously we felt that should be a bit more,” Gary said.

SPS Technologies had claimed Motorola was liable because its attorneys committed violations of court orders involving expert witnesses during trial of the lawsuit. Moe previously ruled that Motorola’s lawyers allowed the witnesses to read trial transcripts before they testified.

The trial ended in a hung jury last November. SPS was seeking $10 billion in damages, claiming that Motorola stole its vehicle-tracking technology. The SPS lawyers contended they might have won the lawsuit and been awarded billions.

“They knew they were going down,” Gary said during closing arguments Thursday. “We wouldn’t even be here if they had played fair.”

But Gay and other Motorola attorneys argued that the trial wasn’t going as well as SPS’s lawyers thought and that they failed to follow proper procedures established by case law in asking for the fees and costs.

“They asked for all these fees in a case that your honor said was difficult, very difficult,” Gay said during her closing arguments. “They’re here asking your honor essentially for a do-over.”

The SPS lawyers wanted Motorola to pay more than $93 million in attorneys’ fees — including $24 million at $11,000 an hour for Gary — and more than $3 million in costs. Moe ordered Motorola to pay $20 million in attorney fees and $2.9 million in costs.

SPS also sought a $100 million restitution penalty, which the judge did not mention when ruling. Gary can file a motion to have the judge address that issue specifically.

Gary is a prominent trial lawyer based in Stuart who is chairman of the Black Family Channel cable network and travels in a custom-fitted Boeing 737 dubbed “Wings of Justice II.” He has won several large judgments against major corporations including Walt Disney Co. and Anheuser-Busch Cos.
During Thursday’s hearing, Motorola lawyers and even the judge referred to Gary as a “superstar” and a “legend.”

It was not clear when or if a new trial will be held on the original trade secrets case.

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