Fish & Richardson Secures $32 Million Appellate Win For Video Game Legend Richard Garriott
October 25, 2011
NEW ORLEANS – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a judgment of almost $32 million in favor of computer gaming pioneer Richard Garriott in a breach of contract case against South Korea-based NCsoft Corp.
Mr. Garriott was represented on appeal and at trial by a team of attorneys from Fish & Richardson P.C., led by Stephen E. Fox, Tommy Jacks, Kelly D. Hine, and David B. Conrad.
In Richard Garriott v. NCsoft Corp., No. 10-50939, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit upheld the trial court’s judgment of nearly $32 million, which includes a jury award of $28 million plus interest and attorney fees.
The 5th Circuit ruling says “it would be unjust to allow NCsoft to sit back during trial, observe Garriott’s litigation strategy, and then demand a new trial on damages when it dislikes the verdict.”
A legend in the video game industry, Mr. Garriott was among the first to develop and market role-playing and massively multi-player online (MMO) games for the PC. NCsoft acquired Mr. Garriott’s company, Destination Games, in 2001.
As part of the acquisition, Mr. Garriott received stock options valid through May 30, 2011. The options were to remain in place in the event of his termination, but would expire within 90 days if he left the company voluntarily.
Mr. Garriott took a pre-approved leave of absence from NCsoft in 2008 to travel to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. During the post-flight quarantine, NCsoft informed Mr. Garriott that his time with the company was over.
NCsoft, however, later designated Mr. Garriott’s termination as voluntary, which forced him to sell his stock options more than two years early, costing him millions of dollars.
On July 29, 2010, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin found that NCsoft breached its stock option agreement with Mr. Garriott and awarded him $28 million in damages. The case was the largest labor & employment verdict in Texas in 2010.
“NCSoft schemed to avoid its obligations to Richard at the trial court and on appeal, and neither the jury nor the 5th Circuit bought any of it,” says Mr. Fox, lead counsel for Mr. Garriott. “Contracts have consequences, and as the Court of Appeals explained, the trial court is not a trial run. This has been a long fight and we are very pleased with the Court’s decision.”
On June 13, 2011 Fish & Richardson announced the firm’s recognition for winning one of the Top Texas Verdicts of 2010 in the annual listing of the state’s largest jury awards published by Texas Lawyer newspaper.