Significant Trials and Cases of Thomas A. French
I. BUSINESS LITIGATION
- Trade Secrets, Unfair Competition and Commercial Disparagement. In June, 2011, a Rhoads & Sinon trial team headed by senior litigation partner Thomas French obtained a defense jury verdict following a two week trial in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. The case involved claims of theft of trade secrets, unfair competition and commercial disparagement. Plaintiff sought over $10 million in damages, which it asked the court to double under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, plus punitive damages and attorneys' fees. The jury determined that the firm's client, which holds numerous patents for a unique type of "frangible," non-toxic bullet, had not obtained or used plaintiff's alleged trade secrets, had not competed unfairly, and had not disparaged plaintiff. No damages were assessed against the firm's client.
- Pharmaceutical Patent Litigation. Served as local trial counsel to Defendants in a patent infringement case involving rights to manufacture and sale of DPT vaccine throughout the United States, filed in Federal Court in Harrisburg. The case settled on a confidential basis after a three week jury trial.
- Defense of Seller of "Zero Restriction" ® / "ZR" ® Brand Golf Apparel Company. Following sale of the company, the disappointed buyer discontinued making installment payments, and claimed breach of contract and misstatements related to accounting treatment of various pre-sale transactions, in federal court. Seller counterclaimed for payment of the sales price as well as payments due under an employment agreement, statutory liquidated damages, and attorneys fees. After presenting a strong motion to dismiss on behalf of the seller, and participating in mediation, the case was settled on a confidential basis.
- Corporate Control Case. Mr. French lead a trial team in three law suits resulting from a deadlock among the owners of a major northeastern Marcellus shale energy industry service company. The litigation sought the appointment of a custodian or receiver for the company, and an injunction to prevent mismanagement of the company. A separate law suit was filed by a member of management against the owners. The cases were resolved through a confidential negotiated settlement.
- Corporate Control Case. Mr. French served as trial counsel to a 50% shareholder in corporate control litigation by the former owners of the historic Bedford Springs Hotel. In that case, the owners had deadlocked on development of the resort hotel, leading to multiple law suits and eventual bankruptcy. Mr. French was successful in obtaining an injunction preserving these historic buildings from partial demolition. The hotel has since been developed into one of Pennsylvania's premier resorts by its new owners (Omni Bedford Springs Resort).
- Computer Distributorship Litigation. The plaintiff was appointed as a distributor for Sperry Corp. personal computers. Immediately thereafter, Sperry merged with Boroughs Corp. to form Unisys Corp. Plaintiff’s distributorship was then terminated. Plaintiff brought a breach of contract and fraud action against Unisys seeking damages. Following a week long jury trial, a verdict in excess of $1 million was returned in favor of the firm's client. The case was subsequently settled on a confidential basis.
- Sale of Drug Store Chain – Fraud and Breach of Contract. The plaintiffs owned and operated a chain of drug stores located throughout Central Pennsylvania. Defendant corporation agreed to purchase the drug store chain for a fixed multi-million dollar price, plus an “earn-out” measured by the cash flow of the business for a one year period. Defendant then merged with another publicly held corporation which integrated the business with its other operations, and refused to pay the earn-out. Following two years of extensive litigation in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the case went to mediation and was favorably settled on a confidential basis.
- Unfair Competition Between Labor Unions. Represented plaintiff, a statewide union, in a suit for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and defamation arising from defection of union locals and representatives to a competing statewide union, in which over $10 million in damages were claimed. The case was appealed to Third Circuit Court of Appeals and a Petition for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was filed. The matter was settled on a confidential basis. (Published Opinion)
- Securities Fraud Litigation. In 2004, Hummelstown General Authority defaulted on $14 million in revenue bonds used to finance a golf course resort. The bonds were unlawful investments for Pennsylvania school districts. Defendants were alleged to have been responsible for the sale of the bonds to several school districts, including Red Lion Area School District, which lost almost $3 million when the bonds defaulted. We represented Red Lion Area School District against the district’s investment advisor, Dolphin & Bradbury, Inc. and other defendants alleged to be liable for the district’s loss. Separately, we represented the district against its auditors who had failed to discover the unlawful investment over the course of several audits. Both cases were favorably settled on a confidential basis after protracted litigation.
- Securities Fraud Litigation. In 1997, the SEC discovered a massive securities fraud perpetrated by John Gardner Black and his companies, Devon Capital Management, Inc. and Financial Management Sciences, Inc. The scheme resulted in losses by many municipalities totaling over $70 million. We represented, through the trial court and appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, four school districts whose collective investment with Black’s companies totaled $20 million. (Published Opinion)
- Securities Fraud Litigation. We previously represented the City of Harrisburg in connection with potential losses in two similar investment fraud schemes in the 1980’s (In re: E.S.M., Inc.; In re: Bevill, Bresler & Schulman, Inc.)
- Defense of Private Foundation. Successfully defended through trial, a non-profit foundation in a suit in which plaintiff sought to force the sale of an apartment complex owned by the foundation.
- Defense of Certified Public Accountants. Defended CPA firm against malpractice claims arising from matters allegedly found during due diligence conducted in connection with the sale of plaintiff’s business. Obtained a defense verdict after six day jury trial.
- Law Firm Dissolution Disputes. Represented a named shareholder in commercial litigation and bankruptcy of a related business organization arising from dissolution of prominent Philadelphia/Pittsburgh law firm.
- Defense of Law Firm in Malpractice Case. Successfully defended a mid-size law firm against claims of malpractice and breach of contract. The case lead to an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where the court reversed an adverse Superior Court decision and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case.
- Products Liability, Design Defect Claims. Obtained a non-suit in a Products liability action brought by paraplegic plaintiff against our client, an overhead crane erector, and other component manufacturers. Pre-trial settlement demand of $4 million. (Two week jury trial)
- Lost Profit From Delay in Commercial Development. Represented grocery store chain against K-Mart Corporation in breach of contract and fraud action arising from delays in construction of a food store by defendant. Lost profits in excess of $1 million were sought. The case was settled pre-trial, on a confidential basis.
- Professional Malpractice and Product Liability Claims. Defended clients in multiple medical, legal and accounting malpractice actions and in numerous personal injury and products liability actions.
- Mass Tort Case. This case involved 42 plaintiffs who claimed severe food poisoning from eating defendant’s fermented meat product, which they bought from various chain grocery stores. Following an investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the USDA issued a recall of up to ½ million pounds of the product. Many of the plaintiffs were hospitalized with severe medical complications. The cases were settled on a confidential basis following mediation.
II. BANKING AND TRUST LITIGATION.
- Successful Trial Defense Of Claim for $84 Million In Damages. In 2007, Mr. French as lead counsel, together with Rhoads & Sinon LLP Partner Michael W. Winfield, obtained a defense jury verdict on behalf of a Bank which had been sued for damages claimed to have exceeded $84 million. The Plaintiff claimed that the Bank was responsible for permitting unauthorized access to a safe deposit box containing important business papers and agreements resulting in the loss of control of a number of family businesses. The Superior Court affirmed the case, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined plaintiff's petition for further appellate review.
- Letter of Credit Litigation. Represented a bank in Federal District Court and on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. This case of first impression under the Uniform Commercial Code raised the question of the rights of an issuer of a standby letter of credit who guarantees a real estate development project. (Published Opinion)
- Defense of Lender Liability Action. Appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which ruled that Pennsylvania banks have no duty to give good faith or other reasons for their refusal to make loans to applicants. (Published Opinion)
- Control of Family Trust and Business. Action for control of trust management and to compel removal of a trustee for self-dealing and incompetence. The litigation terminated with the sale of an insurance service company whose stock was the primary asset of the trust. The sale resulted in the transfer of control over two mutual insurance companies.
- Trustee Fiduciary Duty Cases. Multiple litigations in which beneficiaries claimed multi-million dollar damages for alleged breach of fiduciary duty by banks, including successful trial defense of a claim that a minor’s custodial bank had failed to account for and properly distribute custodial funds to the beneficiary. The case involved an extensive forensic accounting investigation of transactions occurring fifty years before the case was tried.
- Loan Workout and Foreclosure Litigation. Represented lenders in various actions to collect on defaulted commercial loans, including foreclosure on real estate and secured personalty, and suits on guaranty agreements. The cases, one of which went to a jury verdict, also involved lender liability allegations and fraudulent conveyance claims.
- Life Insurance Contract Dispute. Successfully defended, through jury trial, a financial institution alleged to have sold, but fail to issue, a life insurance policy covering a depositor.
III. CONSTRUCTION AND GOVERNMENT CONTRACT LITIGATION
- Construction Warranty Litigation. We have represented many School Districts in actions against contractors and sureties in connection with school construction projects, including one action seeking to recover in excess of $2 million in damages for faulty construction.
- PennDOT/Department of General Services Litigation. Tried multiple cases before the Pennsylvania Board of Claims and in the Courts of Common Pleas involving claims against Commonwealth agencies and municipalities arising out of road, bridge, airport, and building construction.
- Government Contracting. Tried cases before the Commonwealth Court and other courts challenging or defending the government bidding and contracting process, including a challenge to the award of a $4 million contract for computer component systems.
- Private Construction Arbitration. Represented numerous private owners, contractors, suppliers, subcontractors and construction professionals in arbitration before the American Arbitration Association and other tribunals.