$3.4 Million Jury Verdict for Horizon Holdings


A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas rendered a $2,580,000 verdict in favor of our client Horizon Holdings, LLC and against Genmar Holdings, Inc. and various of its subsidiaries. Genmar is the worlds largest manufacturer of recreational boats. Horizon sold its operation in Junction City, Kansas to Genmar, based in Minneapolis, in 1998. The jury found that Genmar had breached its contractual obligations to Horizon, Geoffrey Pepper, John OTool and Cassandra OTool. The three-week long case was tried by George Hanson, Todd McGuire and Sherry Barry.

The Court later denied Genmars motion for a new trial, and ruled in favor of Stueve Siegel Hanson's application for the award of attorneys fees and amended the Judgment to add the sum of $842,892.85 in fees and expenses. In denying the motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial, the Court said: copious evidence was presented at trial demonstrating that defendants acted with requisite dishonest purpose or furtive design. There was ample evidence, for example, that defendants had ulterior motives for acquiring Horizon Marine, including the desire to remove a potentially significant competitor from the market.

In finding for SSH on the attorneys fee application, the Court, the Honorable John W. Lungstrum, said: In the context of this litigation, however, a verdict of $2.5 million is a substantial victory for plaintiffs and there was nothing simple about the contract claim. Rather, the case presented complex commercial issues and plaintiffs counsel successfully developed those issues at trial. Indeed, Mr. Pepper and Horizons breach of contract claim the claim on which plaintiffs ultimately succeeded encompassed a claim that defendants had breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, a claim that is often difficult for judges and lawyers to comprehend let alone lay persons on a jury. To prove plaintiffs claim at trial, plaintiffs counsel could not rely on an express term or the contract and could not point to one specific act that constituted defendants breach. Instead, counsel was required to convey to the jury that defendants entire course of conduct (conduct that spanned over 18 months) breached an implied duty to act in good faith. Despite the sheer volume of evidence needed to describe and place in context defendants course of conduct, coupled with the need to fit that evidence into amorphous concepts like good faith and implied duty, plaintiffs counsel achieved a multi-million dollar verdict for his clients. For these reasons, the court readily concludes (and defendants cannot seriously dispute) that plaintiffs obtained excellent results at trial.

UPDATE: Following the jury's $2.58 million verdict, an award of over $865,000 in attorneys' fees and denial of its post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, remittitur and/or a new trial (in a reported opinion available at 244 F. Supp. 2d 1250 (D. Kan. 2003), Genmar promptly filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Oral argument was heard by the Court in October, 2004. In November, 2004, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the jury's verdict and the trial court's rulings in a reported opinion available at 387 F.3d 1188 (10th Cir. 2004). In December, 2004, the entire judgment (totaling almost $3.6 million) was fully satisfied and the litigation finally resolved. SSH handled this case throughout discovery, trial and the appeal.

The case was tried by George Hanson and Todd McGuire. Sherry Barry and Michelle Hall were the legal assistants on the case.

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