A California federal jury awarded $42.5 million to Soleus International Inc. in its suit against a Chinese company. It was alleged that Soleus’ Chinese ex-partner strangled its business and ruined their $150 million joint venture. Soleus claims that the Chinese company acted in retaliation after Soleus reported the Chinese company’s fire-prone dehumidifiers to federal regulators. The jury found in favor of Soleus in its contract interference and economic advantage claims against Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai over Gree’s alleged sabotage of their $150 million joint venture. Soleus was awarded $12.5 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.
Soleus accused Gree of persuading customers, including Sears Holdings Corp., to drop their accounts with “Gree USA,” the joint venture between Soleus and the Chinese company. The Sears deal, agreed to in December 2011, designated Gree USA as the retailer’s air conditioner and dehumidifier vendor until 2015. It was expected to bring in sales of more than $150 million.