Plantation-based RealAuction.com, which handles online foreclosure auctions for Miami-Dade and Broward counties and tax lien sales for Palm Beach County, has filed for bankruptcy protection while appealing an $8.1 million judgment in favor of a competitor.
RealAuction.com, a Plantation company that handles online foreclosure auctions for Miami-Dade and Broward counties and tax lien sales for Palm Beach County, will continue business under bankruptcy protection while it appeals an $8.1 million judgment won by a competitor.
RealAuction.com has been repeatedly dragged into court by a Pittsburgh-based Grant Street Group. It lost other legal actions as the two sparred previously, but a federal jury in Pittsburgh awarded Grant Street $8.1 million in a patent infringement case in June.
Eyal Berger of Akerman Senterfitt in Fort Lauderdale, bankruptcy attorney for RealAuction.com, said U.S. District Judge Raymond Ray in Fort Lauderdale granted the company’s motions Friday.
RealAuction.com filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition July 31, and the filing normally stays all other litigation. RealAuction insists it has valid defenses and wanted Ray to allow it to pursue post-verdict appeals in Pennsylvania.
Ray also allowed RealAuction.com to continue operating as usual as the company pursues a financial restructuring, Berger said.
RealAuction has 44 employees and provides online transaction services to 71 government entities in Florida and five other states.
In its motion, RealAuction.com explained that Grant Street filed a patent infringement lawsuit in 2009 claiming more than $32 million in damages for infringement on two software products.
The jury found one RealAuction product, RealForeclosure, did not infringe on a patent, but an early version of RealTaxLien infringed on a Grant Street version from April 21, 2009, to March 9, 2010.
RealAuction chief financial officer Marc Thomashaw told the court the jury verdict is “grossly excessive and not supported by the evidence.”
Broward Clerk of Court Howard Forman said he received a call from a Grant Street representative about two hours after RealAuction filed its Chapter 11 filing about the bankruptcy.
“I guess that was my notice,” Forman said, adding the county recently renewed RealAuction’s contract.
Forman said he spoke later with RealAuction CEO Lloyd McClendon, who reassured him that the company was doing well financially.
Forman said he has been happy with RealAuction’s service. Miami-Dade Clerk of Court Harvey Ruvin had indicated likewise in other reports.
To proceed with an appeal, RealAuction had to post a $4.3 million cash bond. That precipitated the bankruptcy filing.
In the filing, RealAuction reported gross income of $4.6 million year to date, $6.4 million in 2012 and $6.1 million in 2011.
Grant Street has a lengthy history of litigating against RealAuction. It first tried unsuccessfully to take the RealAuction.com domain name, claiming the name infringed on its trademark.
Then Grant Street sued RealAuction in Broward Circuit Court in 2006 for defamation and tortious interference. Grant Street relied on emails between RealAuction and county officials, alleging Grant Street was disparaged in the correspondence and that hurt its chances of getting a contract. A jury awarded $1.46 million, but that was reversed in 2011.
In that decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said the jury relied too heavily on the speculative testimony of Grant Street president Myles Harrington and there was little likelihood the county ever would have awarded Grant Street a contract.