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PepsiCo Inc. has Jenner & Block to thank for its big win on Friday. The international soft drink maker relied on Dean Panos, a partner with Jenner in Chicago, to beat back a $1.26 billion default judgment in Wisconsin state court in a trade secrets case. The company had originally failed to appear in the case. The 12-lawyer firm Niebler Pyzyk Roth & Carrig of Menomonee Falls, Wis., gave an assist. Panos on Nov. 6 urged Judge Jacqueline Erwin to vacate the default judgment, arguing in Jefferson County state court that the company, which is based in Purchase, N.Y., never received proper notice under state law of the plaintiffs’ motion to enter the judgment. The judge agreed, saying the notice was “deficient.” The deficiency on the default motion was enough for Erwin to grant the company’s motion to vacate the judgment. She put off a decision on whether there were also deficiencies in the plaintiffs’ service of the complaint. PepsiCo argued that it deserved a chance to defend itself against allegations that it stole the idea to sell bottled water. Plaintiffs Charles Joyce and James Voigt had sued PepsiCo and two of its distributors in April, claiming the defendants misappropriated trade secrets from confidential discussions the plaintiffs had with the distributors in 1981 about selling purified water. David Van Dyke of Chicago-based Cassiday Schade won the default judgment on Sept. 30, nearly a week before PepsiCo said it even knew of the lawsuit. PepsiCo argued it was improperly served with the Wisconsin lawsuit in North Carolina and didn’t properly receive a copy of the motion for default judgment until Oct. 5, after a legal assistant buried an earlier document related to the case on her desk. The 470-lawyer Jenner & Block is chiefly known for its litigation expertise. Panos handles complex commercial litigation and has counted Sara Lee Corp. and American Airlines among his clients. He declined to comment. Niebler Pyzyk, based some 20 miles outside Milwaukee, describes itself as a full-service firm representing individuals and small and medium-sized businesses in a host of practice areas. Niebler’s Robert Roth, who specializes in eminent domain cases, made PepsiCo’s argument that it wasn’t properly served with the lawsuit. “We’re pleased with the outcome of the reverse of the default judgment, and we look forward to trying the case on its merits in the near future,” said Joe Jacuzzi, a spokesman for PepsiCo.

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