SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In a jury verdict announced by its lawyers today, a small cigar company called Trendsettah USA, Inc. won $44,446,482 in damages against Swisher International, the world’s largest cigar manufacturer. Lawyers from Gaw | Poe LLP, the San Francisco-based firm that represented Trendsettah, announced the award. One of the firm’s partners, Mark Poe, declared the verdict “a gratifying result for our clients and our firm, especially in the fact that the jury unanimously agreed with us on all four claims we had brought to trial.”
Trendsettah and Swisher had entered into a manufacturing contract in January 2011, under which Swisher was to manufacture cigarillos—a type of small cigar—for Trendsettah, which Trendsettah was then to sell under its own brand name, “Splitarillos.” In the lawsuit, Trendsettah alleged that the explosive growth of the Splitarillos brand over its first year-and-a-half in business began to eat away at the market share of Swisher’s own “Swisher Sweets” brand. At that point, Trendsettah alleged, Swisher began to purposefully refuse to fulfill Trendsettah’s orders, slowly starving it out of business. At the same time, Swisher encouraged its sales reps to disparage Splitarillos in the marketplace, intentionally mis-filled Trendsettah’s orders for Splitarillos, and then imposed an arbitrarily low cap on the total number of Splitarillos it would manufacture each month, the lawsuit alleged.
Following two weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for less than three hours before unanimously finding Swisher liable to Trendsettah for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust law that prohibits large companies with “market power” from engaging in “anticompetitive conduct” directed at their smaller rivals.
“Although the pertinent section of the Sherman Act uses the term ‘monopoly’, it is not limited to monopolies in the traditional sense,” Mr. Poe said. “A defendant need not be the only game in town in order for it to be found to have ‘monopoly power,’” Poe explained. “Section 2 is really targeted at preventing any extremely dominant participant in a marketplace from freezing out potential rivals.” The jury awarded Trendsettah $14,815,494 in antitrust damages which, pursuant to federal law, are automatically trebled to $44,446,482.
Gaw | Poe LLP partner Randolph Gaw added, “We were pleased that the jury was able to see what Swisher did wrong here, which was to take a potential competitor into its embrace, and then crush it.”
The lawsuit is captioned Trendsettah USA, Inc. v. Swisher International, Inc., and the trial was held before Judge James V. Selna of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Trendsettah was represented by Gaw | Poe LLP’s legal team of Mark Poe, Randolph Gaw, Victor Meng, and Samuel Song, along with assistance from paralegal Will Ostrander, and Matthew Boles of the Houston-based trial support firm Legal Media, Inc. The team received further assistance in thematic development and jury selection from Karen Jo Koonan, from Chopra Koonan, a litigation consulting firm based in San Francisco.
This is the third successive 8-figure result achieved by Gaw | Poe LLP on behalf of its clients in the past six months. On October 16, 2015, Gaw | Poe LLP won an $11,281,681 arbitration award for the founder of a technology company that had been acquired by 3D Systems Corporation, a publicly traded company. And earlier in March, Gaw | Poe LLP obtained a $10 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit involving a debilitating brain injury. Gaw | Poe LLP’s other pending suits include actions against Google Inc. over its AdSense program, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company over a stolen product design, and against Axus Stationary (Shanghai) Ltd. over a raw materials distribution agreement.
About Gaw | Poe LLP
Gaw | Poe LLP is a San Francisco Bay Area boutique law firm focusing on business and antitrust litigation. Founders Randolph Gaw and Mark Poe are classmates and graduates of Stanford Law School. Each practiced for roughly a decade with some of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world before launching their own firm. The firm is experienced at handling disputes on behalf of a wide range of clients from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies to high net worth individuals. For more information, please visit http://www.gawpoe.com or contact Mark Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 766-7451.