July, 2002 – A Federal Court jury in Decatur, Alabama, has found Vanguard Research, Inc., a governmental contractor headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, guilty of misappropriating trade secrets and breach of contract involving Huntsville, Alabama based PEAT, Inc. The jury awarded an $11 Million verdict to our client, PEAT, Inc. Our client’s company was destroyed by the defendant’s unethical behavior of stealing our client’s technology. The information in this case was extremely technical, but that did not confuse the jurors as to what the real issue was in this case. We were most pleased that a federal court jury ruled in favor of our clients.
Beginning in the early 1990’s, PEAT, Inc. and its predecessor company pioneered a way to use plasma energy to destroy medical and other hazardous wastes. In 1997, PEAT Inc. and Vanguard Research Inc. entered into an agreement under which Vanguard was to market PEAT technology and PEAT was to design and build plasma energy waste destruction systems. These waste destruction systems are revolutionary in our environmentally conscious society. They were designed to destroy many types of hazardous material, ranging from illegal drugs to PCBs to medical waste.
Vanguard procured two government contracts to build such systems. PEAT designed and built the first system, but Vanguard kicked PEAT off both projects and built the second system using PEAT’s technology without PEAT and continued to market PEAT’s technology as its own. After a two-week trial in Decatur, which is located on the beautiful Tennessee River, a 7-woman and 3-man jury found that Vanguard had violated the 1997 agreement, and ordered Vanguard to pay PEAT approximately $325,000.00 in compensatory damages.
The jury also found that Vanguard had stolen PEAT’s trade secret TDR Technology provided during the parties’ relationship and used that information for its own benefit. The jury required Vanguard to pay PEAT $1.8 million in actual damages and an additional $8.8 million in punitive damages to punish Vanguard for its actions and to prevent such unethical behavior in the future.
Rhon Jones, who heads up our Business Litigation Section, along with Ben Albritton from our firm, prepared and tried this most important case.