On Feb. 28 after five hours of deliberation, a Dallas jury delivered a $49 million verdict in favor of Brian Hail’s clients, even though their representatives had not testified at the preceding two-and-a-half week trial.

"We proved the liability part of our case strictly through the other side’s witnesses," says Hail, a partner in Dallas’ Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank. He says he made that decision after the trial began in the 162nd District Court in Dallas.

Hail represents the plaintiffs, Tary Network Ltd. and Citadella International Group Ltd. They’re two companies operated by a Swiss lawyer and owned by a Russian national who lives in London. The litigation arose over the plaintiffs’ purchase of unfinished business jets. The plaintiffs planned to resell the planes by packaging them with a lease on locations where the buyer could finish the building the jets — a relatively scarce commodity in 2008 when the negotiating for the deal began, according to Hail.

In a May 23, 2012, amended petition in Tary Network Ltd., et al. v. Associated Air Center Inc., et al., the plaintiffs alleged that they had made several multimillion-dollar down payments but that the defendants never had completed properly secured and prepared locations for the planes to be finished effectively. Among the causes of action cited in the petition were breach of contract, conversion and conspiracy. The petition sought actual and punitive damages.

In separate answers filed May 7, 2012, the two defendants, Dallas-based Associated Air Center LP and its owner Dubai Aerospace Enterprises, denied the allegations and affirmatively asserted that the plaintiffs’ own alleged breaches of contract barred the plaintiffs’ claims.

In response to a telephone call seeking comment, DLA Piper partner James R. Nelson of Dallas, who represents both defendants, emailed a press release from Associate Air stating it would appeal the verdict, which it expects to be overturned. "Associated Air Center strongly disagrees with the verdict that was reached . . . in state district court in Dallas. Significant rulings in the case prevented the jury from considering key facts and led to this disappointing outcome," the statement reads.

In an interview, Nelson adds, "The verdict issued by the jury includes some duplicate recoveries. We believe it will be reduced significantly when the final judgment is entered."

In its verdict, the jury concluded that both defendants breached their contracts with the plaintiffs and converted property. The jury did not conclude that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy or that their actions were malicious, and therefore it did not award punitive damages.

Hail says condensing years of transactions into a streamlined story appeared nearly insurmountable at first. At voir dire, he also faced an additional obstacle of bias against his side among prospective jurors. He says he struck 13 out of 40 prospective jurors for cause after they expressed anti-plaintiff sentiments.

But, as he began to cross-examine the defendants’ witnesses, Hail says, he started to realize that he could best convey his clients’ viewpoint to the jury by simply extracting it from the other side’s witnesses.

"When we polled the jury, they didn’t have any problem with our not calling our clients," says Gruber Hurst associate Trey Crawford of Dallas, who worked on the case with Hail.

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