By Samuel T. Clover ’91
It turns out there really is a lot of money in kitchens and bathrooms.
In one case, $50,544,619.05, to be exact.
In a landmark Connecticut Superior Court decision in May, attorney Fletcher C. Thomson ’98 learned that his client, East Hartford-based flooring company Dur-A-Flex, Inc., was awarded the hefty sum after he and his team proved Laticrete International, a multinational tile grout and adhesives manufacturer based in Bethany, Conn., had misappropriated Dur-A-Flex’s trade secrets.
The jury ordered Laticrete to pay $43.7 million for lost profits and “unjust enrichment”—i.e., profits Laticrete made by using technology that wasn’t theirs—and Judge Dennis Eveleigh threw in another $6.8 million for attorney’s fees and royalties.
“It was the largest jury verdict, as far as we know, that’s ever been rendered in Connecticut,” says Thomson, an associate with the firm Rogin Nassau LLC of Hartford, Conn.
In the eight-week trial, Thomson and fellow attorney Lawrence G. Rosenthal proved that Laticrete had used Dur-A-Flex’s proprietary process for manufacturing colored sand in making its multi-colored grout products. The specialized process bonds sand with a pigment—a hard-to-achieve mix of organic and inorganic compounds—to produce the color-coated material. According to the records in the case, Laticrete had bought the sand from Dur-A-Flex for years before it violated the trade secret confidentiality agreement with the smaller company and began producing it on its own.
Hence the big-money decision.
In the more than two years that he worked on the case, Thomson read 40,000 documents and deposed some 30 witnesses, including leading chemists and financial experts. While he now considers himself well-versed in Connecticut intellectual property law—as well as the science of particle encapsulation—he recalls that it isn’t the only arcane knowledge he’s amassed in his legal career.
For example, there was the cow incident.
“I had a case where this guy bought a Highland cow for his wife for Christmas,” Thomson says. “He built a fence of two-by-fours and chicken wire in his backyard. The cow jumped over the fence and ended up running out onto a highway and causing an accident.”
Thomson attempted to prove to a Massachusetts court that the fierce-looking Scottish Highland cow was a wild animal, which, when it escaped, made the owners strictly liable—a standard rule in common law. However, the judge ruled that in the Bay State, all cows are domestic animals, even woolly ones.
“That was the most interesting argument I ever had, and I lost,” Thomson says. “My case established that as a matter of law in the State of Massachusetts a Scottish Highland cow is a domestic animal.”
It’s a story he’s milked for all its worth.