WINFIELD - Roger Decanio and The Sutter Law Firm didn't file a lawsuit on behalf of Eagle Research Corporation quickly enough to receive punitive damages, according to a Putnam County jury.
"We didn't file within two years of when it was shown we reasonably knew," Decanio said. "God knows what could have happened."
Still, he's not complaining about a $14.9 million victory.
That's how much a jury awarded Eagle Research of Hurricane on Wednesday in Putnam Circuit Court, finding that defendants Emerson Electric, Daniel Industries and Daniels Measurement Services breached a confidentiality agreement regarding a certain type of flow computer, which identifies the pressure and identity of what is flowing through a pipe without having to cut it open.
In 1999, Eagle Research was contacted by Daniel Measurement Services, a subsidiary of Daniel Industries, and was told that DMS would be taking bids for a flow computer contract.
Eagle Research's product was put against several other companies' from around the country, including DMS's own flow computer, and was eventually awarded the contract. Eagle was entered into a contract for 3,000 units.
"They beat Daniel Industries itself," Decanio said. "They could not find a product that would compete or meet the price range better than Eagle."
During the bidding process, Eagle and DMS signed a confidentiality agreement to keep the Eagle design from being revealed to anyone else. But Emerson bought out DMS, broke the contract and claimed they were now entitled to viewing the Eagle design.
An employee at Emerson tipped off Eagle that Emerson was stealing its design. Emerson has a civil case still pending against that man.
During the trial, Decanio brought in Dr. Roy Nutter of West Virginia University to speak to the similarities between Eagle's flow computer and the ones Emerson is now manufacturing.
Emerson brought in experts, too, to speak to the differences, but their experts were on the Emerson payroll.
"With the direct evidence and circumstantial evidence provided by Mr. Nutter, I think the jury s swayed by his compelling arguments and evidence and they found that there was a breach of the confidentiality agreement," Decanio said.
Decanio also had to deal with counterclaims filed by the defendants, though he said they were just "intimidation techniques" and easily defeated.
Decanio, Bill Forbes, John Sutter and Robert H. Miller celebrated when the verdict was handed down. The breach of contract resulted in $4.4 million, the breach of confidentiality agreement resulted in $10.5 million and another $400,000 was awarded for interest.
Decanio said he was happy that Eagle Research found some justice.
"It's a good feeling to know we have such a forward-thinking company here in West Virginia and is growing and competing nationally," he said.
"They don't shy away from a fight to protect their rights. The West Virginia business community should be proud to have it as one of its leading members."
Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding presided over the trial.