Jury box
Jury box (Jason Doiy)

Jury trials don’t get much more dramatic than this. A small company called Axcess International Inc. seemingly won $40.5 million in a malpractice case against Baker Botts on Thursday, only to learn moments later that it wouldn’t get a cent because it waited too long to sue.

The unusual sequence of events unfolded in state court in Dallas, where Axcess has spent three weeks pressing claims that Baker Botts improperly shared its patent applications with a competitor and failed to disclose a conflict of interest. According to a TexasLawBook reporter who was in the courtroom, jurors returned a mixed verdict, finding that Baker Botts acted negligently but that Axcess’ negligence claim fell outside the statute of limitations.

Baker Botts is represented by Murray Folger of Beck Redden and Paul Koning at Koning Rubarts. Axcess has Steven Aldous of Braden, Varner & Aldous and Jonathan Suder of Friedman, Suder & Cooke.

As we’ve reported, Axcess claims that its former IP lawyers at Baker Botts concealed related patent work that the firm performed for a competitor called Savi Technology Inc. Both companies sell radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, and Axcess alleged that it had a right to know that Baker Botts was advising a rival.

Axcess also claimed that Baker Botts helped Savi obtain RFID technology patents that should have belonged to Axcess, causing it to lose out on lucrative government contracts. Baker Botts countered that Axcess was trying to find a scapegoat for its own business failings.

Dallas County Judge Mark Greenberg entered a directed verdict for Baker Botts on Axcess’ breach of fiduciary duty claim on May 8. Axcess’ remaining gross negligence claim went to jury on Wednesday.

In an interview after the verdict, Axcess counsel Jonathan Suder said the judge made a “horrible” decision about how to phrase the statute of limitations issue on the verdict slip. “They were with us,” he said of the jurors. “We interviewed them, and they said they were not happy with the way Baker Botts did business.”

“We continue to believe that Baker Botts lived up the highest ethical standards, and that the claims asserted were unjust,” said Baker Botts counsel Paul Koning in an email. “The jury issued a mixed verdict that was not everything we expected, but we are pleased that the verdict will result in a judgment in favor of Baker Botts.”