A Montana jury has awarded an office supply manufacturer $52 million in its lawsuit against its former bank.
Masters Group International Inc. sued Comerica Inc. after the bank reneged on a November 2008 agreement to delay collection of a $10.5 million line of credit while Masters negotiated another credit line. The planned February 2009 switch to Wells Fargo required that Masters not be in default with Comerica.
Masters’ attorney Timothy Strauch told the Missoulian that Comerica took all $9 million from Masters accounts in December 2008, effectively leading to the death of the company, which had planned to open a manufacturing and distribution center in Butte.
Strauch said Masters didn’t have the money to repay the Butte Local Development Corp. because Comerica breached its contract and seized Masters’ funds.
After a 10-day trial in Butte, jurors deliberated for three hours Friday before awarding Masters $41.5 million in compensatory damages and $10.5 million in punitive damages.
“I think it took a Montana jury to render this verdict. Where fair is fair and a deal is a deal,” Strauch said.
Dallas-based Comerica announced Tuesday it was revising its fourth-quarter earnings based on the verdict, resulting in a $28 million decrease in net income.
Comerica Chairman and CEO Ralph W. Babb Jr. said the company expected to win the lawsuit and is considering appealing the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.
If the damages are paid, the company will pay its debts and continue its efforts to open a business in Butte, Strauch said Wednesday.
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