The two attorneys let go were relatively high up, Vic Leo, vice president and chief litigation counsel, and Sharon O’Flaherty, litigation counsel. Oddly, a company spokesperson wouldn’t comment on whether their firings were connected with a long running legal battle in Mississippi. The fight started in 2004 when Eaton sued a rival, Frisby Aerospace claiming that five engineers stole company secrets when they defected Eaton for Frisby.
Mississippi Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill recently ordered that Eaton explain how two email strings directly relating to the trade-secrets case suddenly appeared in mid-April. Judge Weill pointed to Eaton’s own promise that in 2008 and 2009 it had “precisely followed the orderly process laid out by this court.” For their part the Eaton spokesman says that Eaton will fully comply in providing an explanation.
Frisby alleges that Eaton instigated the lawsuit to derail their attempt at landing a lucrative contract building parts for Boeing. Frisby, now known as Triumph Actuation Systems, says the recently released emails show that Eaton engaged in a corruption by attempting to influence the judge in the Eaton-Frisby case by employing a politically connected, former district attorney, as a messenger between Eaton and the judge.
In one email, the former DA told Eaton that he was working to sway Judge Bobby DeLaughter: “REALLY pushing to get the ox out of the ditch.”
Thankfully Judge DeLaughter decided to recuse himself from presiding over the lawsuit as he was in the midst of dealing with a judicial bribery case involving another instance of contact with the former DA.
The suit ended up being dismissed by the new judge in January 2011, slamming Eaton for attempting to influence the judge. Estimates peg the value of the suit at between several hundred million dollars and $1 billion.
Eaton then appealed the dismissal to the Mississippi Supreme Court where the case remains unresolved. Frisby countersued and launched another attack in North Carolina, claiming it never received sensitive information from the engineers it hired from Eaton.
Eaton and several higher-ups were then sued by a group of its own shareholders at a court in Ohio. The shareholders claimed that it was because of the defendant’s actions that the lawsuit was dismissed. Eaton is now working to have this suit dismissed.
Not wanting to be left out the federal government jumped in and filed theft and fraud charges against the engineers who left Eaton for Frisby. Only this week, however, was it announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Mississippi would not be pursuing criminal charges against any of the men.
If you’ve been involved in something that requires the skill of an experienced Mississippi criminal defense lawyer, please call us today at (662) 536-5656.
Source: “Eaton fires in-house lawyers involved in Mississippi trade-secrets case,” by Alison Grant, published at Cleveland.com.