Lexington jury awards $1.2 million to software company in six-year dispute

(The State) A Lexington County civil jury has awarded$1.2 million to a local software firm on 18 different damage claims involving two ex-employees who had left to start a rival company that allegedly stole business away from the software firm.

But a lawyer for defendants Cicero “Ro” Lucas, George Lawson IV and their company 5 Point Solutions, said Monday the jury ruled on numerous duplicated claims, and he will seek to have the $1.2 million total cut by more than half.

“It’s just a jury verdict – a final judgment has not been entered yet,” said Andy Arnold, a Greenville attorney for the defense.

Robert Goings, the Columbia attorney representing Team IA (pronounced eye-A) Inc., said Monday’s $1.2 million verdict should stand and he will fight any effort to diminish it.

Team IA, a 20-year-old company, does business nationally, providing software and other services for companies that want to handle large amounts of digital information, including converting paper archives into online accessible digital files.

“The verdict is $1.2 million,” Goings said. “The jury spoke loud and clear. Jury members recognized confidential information had been wrongfully taken and misused by Mr. Lucas when he went on to start a competing business. We will also be seeking attorneys’ fees.”

Arguments to the trial judge, Eugene Griffith, about the verdict size and related matters will be held in the near future, though no date was available Monday.

The verdict, reached Friday after five hours of deliberation, involved a case first filed in 2009. At one point, a judge ruled that much of Team IA’s case should be dismissed. Goings won appeals in the S.C. courts and the State Supreme Court and secured the right to go to trial on all claims.

According to a complaint in the case, Lucas had worked for Team IA since 2001, when he was hired as sales representative. At the time, he signed a non-competitive, non-disclosure agreement, restricting his use of Team IA’s confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets. That agreement also restricted his ability to compete with Team IA for a year after he left it, the lawsuit said.

When Lucas joined Team IA, he didn’t have any sales experience or any knowledge of what Team IA did, according to their lawsuit.

Over the years, Team IA gave Lucas “extensive equipment and resources” and financial data, customer lists and he was “introduced to most of Team IA’s customers,” the lawsuit said.

In January 2009, after selling a big microfilm project to a Georgia Clerk of Superior Court office, Lucas requested his salary – which was about $150,000 in 2008 – be doubled, according to the lawsuit. But Team IA’s owners, Brent and Lorri Yarborough, refused because they had not yet received any money from the Georgia project, according to the lawsuit.

The next month, on Feb. 3, 2009, Lucas resigned, deleting information about key Team IA customers, prospects and vendors from his company computer, the lawsuit said.

Six days later, Lucas set up 5 Point LLC, which competed against Team IA, according to the lawsuit. Lawson also began working for Team IA, the lawsuit said.

Team IA filed the lawsuit against Lucas the next month.

In an answer to the suit, Lucas, Lawson and 5 Point denied the major allegations and asserted that “Lucas introduced Team IA to many customers and prospects, not the other way around. Furthermore, Lucas’ contacts and prospects were government-elected officials and staff whose contact information is publicly available,” the defendants’ answer said.

“We hope that we are nearing the end, because it’s been going on six years,” defense attorney Arnold said, “but I can tell you, it isn’t over yet.”

 

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