Over the years Briol & Benson has engaged in some colorful high-stakes litigation, frequently having to overcome unique and unpredictable circumstances. Whatever the circumstances of your commercial or financial dispute, Briol & Benson can help you handle it in what our attorneys believe is the best possible way.
Briol & Benson has been involved in hundreds of lawsuits over the years. The following cases are not our largest or our smallest. Instead, they are simply some of the more interesting matters we have been involved in over the years. We hope it gives you an insight into our history.
An international, New York Stock Exchange-traded manufacturer of fluid mechanics devices retained Briol as lead trial counsel in a $28 million claim for overpricing of carbon seal products. Briol convinced the district court to allow this client’s late class action claim despite efforts by class counsel to exclude it. The court issued an order approving a revised plan of distribution granting the client a pro rata share of the settlement.
Briol acted as lead trial counsel for a national internet real estate broker, which conducted business in all fifty states and in approximately three hundred multiple listing services, in ongoing disputes with the National Association of Realtors and various local associations. Through a series of meetings over a period of two years with the with Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission attorneys, Briol assisted the Department of Justice in bringing the then-largest antitrust prosecution in the country against the National Association of Realtors in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
In October 2009, an international, multi-billion-dollar corporate client, based in France, retained Briol as lead trial counsel to defend against an injunction sought by a multi-billion-dollar competitor, a Swiss company, to stop our client from selling a new nutritional supplement. The competitor also sought damages for product sold, claiming improper use of trade secret information in the development of the nutritional supplement. A co-defendant in the action was the competitor’s former worldwide head of research and development.
Prior to Briol’s retention, the trial court determined that the facts weighed in favor of the competitor but did not grant a TRO because it would put our client out of business. Instead, he scheduled the case for trial within one month of the first hearing.
Briol was retained after the TRO hearing and obtained a two-week delay for the start of the trial. The trial court admonished the attorneys that no further time to prepare would be granted, and “only the death of lead trial counsel” would prevent the trial from proceeding as scheduled. Briol and the other defense counsel took fifteen depositions in the three weeks leading up to the scheduled trial date. At a hearing on our client’s motion to compel discovery, Briol persuaded the judge to order the competitor, a Swiss company, to produce all relevant documents worldwide, along with affidavits from all individuals who participated in the search for documents, within twenty-four hours. The competitor subsequently violated the Court’s order by failing to produce all relevant documents within the mandated time period.
In a telephone conference with the trial judge two days before the scheduled start of trial, the judge once again postponed the trial date. He declared that he was appalled at the competitor’s “clear violations” of his discovery order, and told our client that he would award “every nickel, every penny, and every dime” it spent as a result of the competitor’s misconduct. The judge postponed the trial without a TRO, pending a hearing for discovery sanctions against the competitor. The case then settled.
The CTO (and fifty-percent shareholder) of a software development company abruptly resigned following a dispute over his salary and a proposed buy-out. The company demanded that he return his company laptop and certify that he had retained no documents, which he did. The company retained Briol to sue the former CTO under his non-compete and confidentiality agreements. Forensic analysis of the CTO’s laptop showed that upon receiving the company’s demand and before returning the laptop, the CTO immediately copied more than ten thousand confidential company documents from the laptop onto an external hard drive, whose existence he had never disclosed. Discovery also showed that CTO was preparing to begin competing against company immediately, in violation of his one year non-compete. Briol sought compensatory and punitive damages in addition to an injunction requiring the return of all confidential information and prohibiting the former CEO from competing with the company. The trial court granted injunctive relief and extended the former CEO’s non-compete agreement past its expiration date after he admitted in deposition that he lied when he represented that he had returned or destroyed all confidential material he had taken from the company. To our knowledge, this was the first time an attorney had secured an extension of a non-compete agreement beyond its termination date in Minnesota courts. The case settled.
Two of the largest cities in Minnesota cities retained Briol to recover millions of dollars they lost as a result of investments sold to them by Merrill Lynch in violation of state laws restricting the types of vehicles a local government may invest in. The investments were complicated derivative instruments connected to offshore entities which quickly lost most of their value almost immediately after they were purchased. After a discovery process that included subpoenas for documents from the State of Maine and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, both cases settled.
Oh, to be young again. In a whirlwind sequence, Mark Briol got a $0 verdict after trying a breach of contract claim for the failed purchase of a business in a one-month jury trial in Hennepin County. The case was tried before then Judge Daniel Hart. Mr. Briol asked the jury for $5,000,000; had a respite of one day (a Saturday), and embarked upon another month-long jury trial for fraud in the sale of a bank. The case was in Hennepin County before the (then State Court Judge) now US Federal Court Judge Ann Montgomery. Mr. Briol won a $1.3 million jury verdict (with prejudgment interest); had a respite of one day (a Saturday), and then flew to Detroit for a three-week securities arbitration that resulted in a $789,521 arbitration award against Paine Webber. Mr. Briol was in 3 separate commercial trials every day for almost 3 months in a row. He went on to try another 9 cases that year.
Briol represented a client who sued to halt an attempt by the City of St. Louis, Missouri to secure a license from the Missouri Gaming Commission to add a second casino within the city limits. The proposed casino would have directly competed with Briol’s client’s casino. Briol filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking damages and injunctive relief. On the same day, the city filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging bad-faith closure of another casino and anticipatory repudiation of a redevelopment agreement.
Following a two-day evidentiary hearing, the federal court denied Briol’s motion. Briol appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Shortly after briefing in the appeal was completed, the Missouri Gaming Commission issued its decision, which did not award the license to the City of St. Louis, but rather to Cape Girardeau, a town 115 miles away from St. Louis. Briol’s client thus obtained the result it sought—no new casino next to its casino—and dismissed its lawsuit. The case generated significant press coverage in St. Louis.
The Missouri Gaming Commission adopted a resolution finding that repair of a riverboat owned by Briol’s client was “impracticable.” This resolution effectively prohibited replacement of the riverboat and revoked the client’s gaming license beyond the expiration date of the riverboat’s hull certification. Briol appealed the Gaming Commission’s resolution to the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals, and Mr. Briol successfully argued the appeal and the ruling below was overturned. The Solicitor General of Missouri represented the Gaming Commission at oral argument. The case received front-page coverage in the local press in St. Louis.
As lead trial and appellate counsel, Briol successfully defended its client against a $23 million claim for tortious interference with contract brought by a competitor. Summary judgment in the client’s favor was granted by the U.S. District Court in South Dakota and affirmed by the Eighth Circuit.
International Gaming Network v. Casino Magic Corp., 120 F.3d 135 (8th Cir. 1997).
The U.S. District Court for Minnesota relied on the affidavits of Mark Briol and Brian O’Neill, senior partner at Faegre Baker Daniels famed for his role in battling Exxon Valdez, to determine the reasonableness of an attorney’s fee award at the rate of $500 per hour. Mr. Briol filed an affidavit on behalf of the plaintiff’s lawyer, Robert Bennett, a name partner at Flynn, Gaskins & Bennett. Granting the fee petition, Judge Tunheim wrote that Mr. Briol is an “experienced trial lawyer” who is “well-qualified to opine on the reasonableness of attorney’s fees in this jurisdiction.”