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DALLAS � A state district judge in Dallas recently signed a judgment ordering Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to pay a former client about $1.1 million in damages in a negligence suit. In the judgment signed on June 28, 68th District Judge Charles Stokes also entered a take-nothing judgment on Akin Gump’s counterclaims in National Development and Research Corp., et al. v. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The 871-lawyer, Dallas-based firm declines comment, says Akin Gump spokeswoman Kristen White. No individual Akin Gump lawyers were named as defendants. David Shuford, of Shuford & Associates in Dallas, who represents plaintiff National Development and Research Corp. and Robert Tang, the company’s owner, says no settlement negotiations with Akin Gump are ongoing. The judgment calls for Akin Gump to pay $922,632 in actual damages and prejudgment interest of $194,738, plus post-judgment interest. Christopher Scanlan, a partner in Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas, who represented Akin Gump at trial, says Akin Gump is likely to appeal the judgment. He declines to discuss any potential grounds for appeal. The case stems from Akin Gump’s representation of the plaintiffs in an underlying declaratory judgment suit that was filed in state district court in Dallas in 1997. As alleged in the plaintiffs’ first amended petition and answer in National Development, Tang and his company hired Akin Gump in 1997 to defend them from a declaratory judgment action, Panda Global Energy Co., et al. v. National Development and Research Corp, et al. In that suit, Shuford says, Panda sought a declaratory judgment that it lawfully terminated a consulting contract with Tang and his company in connection with a power plant in China. In response to the underlying suit, National Development and Tang brought a counterclaim alleging breach of contract against Panda and seeking declaratory relief. Shuford says Tang alleged in its counterclaim in the underlying suit that Panda terminated a consulting agreement with him, and then failed to fully compensate him — specifically with a success fee and stock in a power plant subsidiary. But, according to the petition in National Development, a judgment was entered in the underlying suit in Panda’s favor. The plaintiffs allege in the petition in National Development that Akin Gump failed to submit jury questions in the underlying case that would have enabled National Development to recover on some breach-of-contract claims against Panda in Panda Global. The plaintiffs allege in National Development that Akin Gump’s failure to properly submit the underlying suit to the jury led to a judgment in Panda Global calling for them to pay about $450,000 in legal fees, plus interest, and it precluded them from recovering about $7.89 million in damages. In National Development, the plaintiffs brought a negligence cause of action against Akin Gump. In its original answer and counterclaim, Akin Gump denied the allegations and alleged that the counter-defendants, National Development and Tang, failed to pay $225,688 in fees and expenses for the firm’s work on Panda Global. Akin Gump brought breach of contract and quantum meruit/unjust enrichment causes of action against National Development and Tang. In May, a jury in Stokes’ court returned a verdict finding Akin Gump negligent for failing to present National Development’s claim for a success fee in the Panda Global suit, negligent for failing to present the company’s claim for the grant of some additional stock, and negligent for failing to present a claim for the purchase of stock it already owned. The actual damages, according to the verdict, totaled about $922,000. The jury, meanwhile, found that Akin Gump was not negligent for presenting, in Panda Global, National Development’s claim for an annual service retainer. The jury rejected Akin Gump’s counterclaim seeking payment from National Development for fees and expenses for its work on Panda Global. Brenda Sapino Jeffreys is a reporter with Texas Lawyer, a Recorder affiliate based in Dallas.

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