February 27, 2020
Two of Latham’s critical trial wins – the successful defense of Puma Biotechnology in the first federal securities class action to reach a verdict in nearly 10 years as well as a unanimous jury verdict for Oracle in a complex commercial litigation dispute – were named among the California Daily Journal’s Top Verdicts for 2019.
Global Chair of the Litigation & Trial Department Michele Johnson, Global Chair of the Securities Litigation & Professional Liability Practice Andrew Clubok, Chair of the San Diego Litigation & Trial Department Colleen Smith, and Washington, D.C. partner Sarah Tomkowiak led the trial defense of biotech start-up Puma Biotechnology. Plaintiff sought damages exceeding US$1.2 billion against Puma which, at the time of trial, had a market cap of US$1 billion. The jury delivered a unanimous verdict in Puma’s favor on three of the four alleged misstatements, and awarded less than 5% of claimed damages (estimated to be US$9 million or less after a lengthy claims process).
Clubok shared with the Daily Journal, “This was a lawyer-driven case where [the plaintiffs] tried to take a billion dollars away from this company and make it impossible for it to provide lifesaving medicine. That’s what we succeeded in defeating.”
For Oracle, San Francisco partner Sarah Ray led a trial team, comprised entirely of women litigators, and achieved a complete defense verdict in a lawsuit filed in 2016 against NetSuite (prior to Oracle acquiring NetSuite). Plaintiff alleged breach of contract and fraud related to business software contracts it entered into with NetSuite in 2014. Plaintiff sought more than $17 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages in the tens of millions, alleging that NetSuite's software had caused it to go out of business. A few weeks before trial, the court granted Oracle's motions in limine to exclude plaintiff's expert's opinions regarding plaintiff's lost profit damages as speculative and unreliable. By limiting the compensatory damages that the plaintiff could seek to recover at trial, Latham prevented the plaintiff from seeking the significant punitive damages award it had originally contemplated. The jury deliberated for just over an hour, returning a unanimous verdict in Oracle and NetSuite's favor.
In the published profile, Ray explained that, “You have to control the narrative. [Oracle’s] employees were being accused of lying in the contract negotiations, so I told the jury they should meet them and see how deeply they negotiated these agreements… You could see the jurors nodding along with our witnesses. They could see that it’s personal once you get accused.”