Construction management company Heery International has lost its claim that officials at the DeKalb County School District—Heery’s opponent in litigation potentially worth more than $120 million—destroyed damaging emails.
Stanley Birch Jr., a retired federal appeals court judge who is serving as a special master for discovery issues in the case, denied Heery’s motion for sanctions for spoliation in an order filed Tuesday.
But Heery’s effort resulted in the judge requiring the school district to conduct additional searches for emails from school administrators and board members discussing the company’s firing in February 2007, said Heery spokesman David Rubinger.
Heery is seeking emails that would show it was fired so that school leaders could steer construction contracts to their associates, he said. Similar accusations led to criminal charges against former Superintendent Crawford Lewis and other education officials.
King & Spalding attorney Gregory Smith said the DeKalb school district is pleased with Birch’s ruling.
“The ruling is consistent with the school district’s position that the documents Heery wanted to use to prove its ‘wrongful termination’ claim never existed in the first place,” Smith wrote in an email.
Lawyers for DLA Piper, which represents Heery, had asked Birch to dismiss all the school district’s claims because they said the district failed to discover many emails discussing the company’s firing.
Although the school district wasn’t found to have spoiled evidence, Birch has advised the parties to look harder, using new search terms, Rubinger said.
“We believe there would be evidence about the communications and how it went down,” Rubinger said. “We were forced out not as a result of our actions, but as a result of a scheme that was being perpetrated by members of the administration.”