Tommy Fibich, a senior partner in Houston’s Fibich, Hampton, Leebron, Briggs & Josephson, faced more than the usual professional pressures on the eve of a four-week trial. He faced family pressures, too. His stepson, Jarrett Ellzey, a partner in Houston’s Hughes Ellzey, had asked Fibich to take the lead in SSC Opportunity Partners LLC, et al. v. L.S. “Trey” Halberdier III, et al.

For Fibich, who had helped raise Ellzey since Ellzey was 8 years old, the notion of having his stepson so closely observe his trial performance “upped my game,” the veteran litigator says. Fibich recalls that Ellzey told him the night before the trial started, “All my life I wanted to try a case with you.” In response, Fibich remembers thinking, “Oh my gosh, what will happen if I don’t win?”

But Fibich did win, securing a $16.5 million verdict, including $1.5 million in punitive damages, for his client. The trial in the 215th District Court concluded on Dec. 18, 2012.

In an amended petition filed Oct. 4, 2012, SSC Opportunity Partners, the client of Fibich and Ellzey, alleged that in 2010 the 11 defendants fraudulently prevented it from purchasing land near the Exxon Mobil Corp. campus south of The Woodlands and cited tortious interference with a contract against all the defendants, among other causes of action.

In separately filed answers, all the defendants, represented by three teams of lawyers, denied the allegations, and some filed cross-claims, citing breach of contract as a cause of action. The complex litigation led to a 51-page jury charge. The panel deliberated for two days before delivering the favorable verdict for SSC.

Chris Bell of Houston says his four defense clients plan to appeal any resulting final judgment and notes that the jury verdict was based upon “an absurd damage model.”

Craig Clendenin, senior counsel at Cokinos, Bosien & Young in Houston, says his five defense clients plan to raise questions about the verdict before the final judgment is issued and ultimately may appeal.

Patricia Ann Peterson, in-house counsel at The Fidelity National Title Group, which is not a defendant, represents two defense clients. She declines comment.

But the stepfather and stepson unequivocally regard the trial as a success, not just because of the verdict’s size.

“It was a fun experience,” says Ellzey, “I learned more than I ever could have watching [his stepdad] cross-examine witnesses. He pushed the envelope and didn’t let the witnesses get away with anything.”

An example, Ellzey says, is when Fibich confronted a defense witness who had sent an email that included a statement Fibich believed supported the plaintiff’s theory. When the witness told Fibich “something about ‘I say a lot of silly things that don’t make sense to people,’ ” Ellzey says, Fibich didn’t just let that response stand, even though it was helpful to Fibich’s client.

Instead, Fibich had the nerve to go one step further and said in a sidebar comment, loud enough for the jury to hear, “I think we can all agree with that.” The other side, Ellzey recalls, justifiably raised an objection. But Ellzey knew his stepfather had already scored a point with jurors — and became convinced of that when the verdict was read.

Previous Litigators of the Week:

• Litigator of the Week: Table Talk
• Litigator of the Week: Victory, at Long Last
• Litigator of the Week: Winning a Million for a 100th
• Litigator of the Week: Long Route to Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Occupy Austin Protesters Prevail
• Litigator of the Week: Multimillion-Dollar Shale Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Fair Labor Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Eagle Ford Shale Trade Secrets Win
• Litigator of the Week: $38 Million in Cellphone
Antenna Infringement Case
• Litigator of the Week: Finishing First
• Litigator of the Week: The Need for Speed
• Litigator of the Week: Bumpy Bus Ride Leads to 
$100K for Injuries
• Litigator of the Week: Making the Case for Mental Anguish Damages
• Non-Profit Gets a Post-Trial Surprise from Jury Forewoman
• Litigator of the Week: Houston Lawyer Fends Off Pet Store’s DTPA Claim
• Litigator of the Week: Scalding Accident Leads to $12 Million Verdict
• Litigator of the Week: Nonprofits Don’t Owe Millions in Property Taxes
• Litigator of the Week: Beating the FTC
• Litigator of the Week: Moving Quickly
• Litigator of the Week: Want to Buy Some Rocks?
• Litigator of the Week: Mining Hypothetical Profits
• Litigator of the Week: Patents Invalid
• Litigator of the Week: Nearly $4 Million in Fees
• Litigator of the Week: $1.9 Million in Negligence Case
• Litigator of the Week: No-Show No Problem
• Litigator of the Week: Take-Nothing Verdict
• Litigator of the Week: Termite Trouble
• Litigator of the Week: Proof and Loser Pays
• Litigator of the Week: Arbitration Acumen
• Litigator of the Week: An Emotional Win
• Litigator of the Week: The Peanut Butter Warehouse Lofts Project
• Litigator of the Week: Devon’s Data-Driven Suit
• Litigator of the Week: Man on a Mission
• Litigator of the Week: RICO Suave
• Litigator of the Week: Drill Rig Mast Collapse
• Litigator of the Week: Last of the Water-Damage Cases?
• Litigator of the Week: Victory Over the Tax Man
• Litigator of the Week: $3.2 Million Victory
• Litigator of the Week: Kevin Hedges
• Litigator of the Week: Sink Re-Enactment Critical to Win
• Litigator of the Week: The Man With a Plan
• Litigator of the Week: Victory Is Sweet
• Litigator of the Week: A Trade Secrets Test
• Litigator of the Week: Do-Over More Than Doubles Award
• Litigator of the Week: Aftermath of Hurricane Ike
• Litigator of the Week: Gone, But Not Forgotten
• Litigators of the Week: $60 Million More
• Litigator of the Week: Patent War Chest
• Litigator of the Week: A Pound of Flesh