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A nutritional supplement company has won $1.47 million over claims that a business partner breached an oral contract. After three hours of deliberation Jan. 11, a Fulton County Superior Court jury found for Global Nutrients and its president, David J. Romeo, who alleged that Atlanta-based AHD International and its president, John Alkire, broke an oral agreement to share responsibilities and profits for developing an East Coast sales network. Both companies sell nutritional supplements. Cale H. Conley, of Conley Griggs, who represented Global Nutrients, said the trial showcased a large company taking advantage of a small business. Following a five-day trial before Judge John J. Goger, the jury awarded $1.4 million in compensatory damages. “AHD was the larger of the two companies, and they used their leverage of having greater financial resources and size to muscle my client out of the joint venture,” Conley said. The $1.4 million in damages was based on 40 percent of profits accrued by AHD International after it terminated its business agreement with Global Nutrients, Conley said. The jury awarded an additional $68,000 in punitive damages. “It was a great result for our client, and we were extremely pleased,” Conley said. “It’s the first time the jury has ever given me the exact amount I requested in a closing argument.” Conley said the verdict was the largest for his firm since 2002, adding that the firm could bill as much as $280,000 for the case, putting the total award at $1.75 million because the jury also granted Romeo and Global Nutrients the cost of legal fees. Romeo claimed that AHD International withheld Global Nutrients’ share of the joint profits after Aug. 8, 2001, just as the project began to take off. Theodore H. Lackland of Lackland & Associates, who represented AHD International, said his client never entered a contract or agreed to share its profits with Romeo, whom he characterized as a “salesman.” Lackland said he will appeal the verdict. According to Conley, the two companies entered into the oral agreement in May 1999 to spur sales along the East Coast. Conley said Global Nutrients brought marketing skills to the deal and AHD International provided financial muscle. Conley said his team prepared 650 trial exhibits to prove that a contractual relationship existed even though it “was not reduced to writing.” Expense records and faxes Romeo sent to generate business on the East Coast proved there was an agreement, Conley said. Conley said his client simply trusted AHD International and thought a written agreement was not necessary given the trail of paper the partnership had left behind. The oral agreement lasted until August 2001 and was backed by a commission agreement outlining a plan to share profits and responsibilities on two clients for one year, Conley said. The companies then agreed to split profits on sales accounts located east of the Mississippi River. AHD International was to keep 60 percent, Global Nutrients 40 percent. Lackland said that the facts could not support the jury’s verdict. While witnesses for the plaintiff testified about the existence of a Global Nutrients-AHD International partnership, documentation did not prove the existence of any contractual relationship, he said. “Certain evidence was entered that I don’t think the jury clearly understood,” Lackland said.

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