A dispute over the sale of a window manufacturing business was recently settled by a Dallas County jury that awarded plaintiff Boral Windows none of the $41 million it sought in damages against the former owner of the company who it alleged violated a noncompete agreement.
But in a win for Boral on the eve of trial, Dallas County District Judge Maricela Moore granted the company a directed verdict on $100 million in counterclaims brought by William Robinson for fraud, tortious interference, unjust enrichment and conspiracy. The jury awarded Boral $120,000 on a claim that Robinson’s niece had improperly accessed and shared Boral’s pricing and client information.
The jury heard two weeks of testimony in the lawsuit, in which Boral alleges Robinson violated noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements he signed in 2016 when he sold his company for $240 million.
The panel deliberated for less than two hours before rendering its verdict on Friday.
On Tuesday, Boral’s attorney, Stephanie Clouston of Alston & Bird, said no decision had been made about possible appeals.
“We’re glad that we got the directed verdict on the defendants’ counterclaims of over $100 million against my clients, and that we were able to obtain a verdict against Lacee Newman for taking Boral’s confidential information,” she said. “But we’re disappointed the jury didn’t also find damages against Billy Robinson.”
According to court documents, Robinson was the owner and operator of Krestmark Industries and two subsidiaries that were all in the business of manufacturing and selling vinyl and aluminum windows.
In 2016, Robinson sold the companies to Headwater Windows — which later became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boral — for $240 million. As part of that deal, Robinson was to stay on as a senior advisor with the company.
But Robinson’s tenure was brief and he was terminated May 22, 2017, according to Boral’s lawsuit. After that, Boral alleged, he began a competing business making components for window manufacturing, “a direct violation of his noncompetition obligations under the sale-of-business covenant agreement and the employment agreement.”
Boral alleged Newman, the niece of Robinson, used her access to Boral’s proprietary information at her uncle’s direction and downloaded and sent that information — including net pricing information, price quotes, customer lists and more — to her personal email address.
“Upon information and belief, at Robinson’s request, Newman access and took this information, akin to a competitive blueprint, knowing she was going to work for Elevate and help launch the company,” Boral alleged in the seventh amended petition filed in March.
Elevate, according to the lawsuit, is the name of the competing windows manufacturing company started by Robinson’s son, James E. Robinson, and a longtime business partner, James Gresham.
Gresham, a longtime friend and former business partner of Robinson who served as a board member for Krestmark and helped negotiate the sale of the company to Boral, and James E. Robinson were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Boral filed this lawsuit in Dallas County in October 2018.
Robinson’s attorney, Don Godwin of Godwin Bowman, said the theme he hammered home to the jury throughout trial was “corporate greed and overreaching.”
“I thought that would play well to a jury in Dallas County,” he said. “And thank goodness it did.”
Godwin told jurors that Australian-based Boral was part of a multibillion-dollar conglomerate and that the company was “relying upon hearsay and speculation and conjecture” in bringing claims against his client.
In addition to Godwin, Robinson was represented by Godwin Bowman attorneys Stefanie McGregor and Kristin Burns.
The cause number is DC-18-16397, in the 162nd District Court of Dallas County, Texas.