Huffs’ Victory Tour Comes to a Sudden Halt
Six weeks ago, Thomas Huff, Ellen Huff and their attorney Robert Cheeley did a victory tour, celebrating their trial “victory” over Alfred Teo and the Sigma companies after a two-week jury trial in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Sigma companies report that the Huffs’ victory was short lived.
On July 12, the ChiefJudge of the Circuit Court for Broward County, Florida, did what he said he was going to do when the jury left the courtroom. He entered a 17 page directed verdict in favor of Alfred Teo and his family’s companies finding that the Huffs’ case had no factual merit and the Huffs suffered no damages.
The judge explained why the jury was misled into rendering a verdict that bore no relationship to the evidence presented at trial “Nothing in his nineteen years as a judge,” he wrote, prepared him for “what transpired in courtroom 15150 during this trial” The “conduct of counsel for the [Huffs] was nothing short of comical,” was repeatedly and prejudicially disrespectful to a series of court rulings, and led to a verdict that was “inconsistent with the evidence and borne from passion and prejudice.”
The judge found that when the Teo family companies acquired half of Alliance Barrier Films from the Huffs it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, half ofthe plant’s machines were in a dysfunctional condition and that the evidence overwhelmingly established that Alfred Teo and his companies had acted reasonably in their dealings with the Huffs. He noted that every good deed Alfred Teo did to help the Huffs was falsely characterized by the Huffs as part of a conspiracy.
It took the Huffs over eight months after the acquisition to put the defective equipment in an operating condition and that extended historical losses into the period after the first half of the business was sold. The company was able to operate during those months only because Sigma extended over $7 million in trade credit that Alliance could not repay.
The need for capital to address Alliance’s debt drove the parties apart. Alfred Teo expressed a willingness of his companies to provide the capital the company needed in a variety of ways. The Huffs, who had a contractual right to prevent a change in the capital structure, simply said no, refusing to put a penny into the business and refusing to allow the Teos to do so either. When the impasse over capital reached a breaking point, Thomas Huff asked to be bought out and they quickly negotiated a price that was paid.
Shortly thereafter, the Huffs filed their suit, claiming the benefit of the subsequent success of the business that resulted from the Teos’ willingness to provide Alliance with the capital it desperately needed but could not acquire because of the Huffs’ opposition.
Chief Judge Jack Tuier made short shi-ift of the Huffs’ attempt to prove damages by the success of the company after the Huffs voluntarily sold out. The judge had repeatedly ruled that to show that the price paid was too low, the Huffs had to prove a value greater than the sale price on the day of sale, not some future time when it was a different company. The Huffs simply ignored those orders because on the date of the sale, the company was worth what the Huffs agreed to accept. The company’s future success, he concluded, was achieved by the investment the Huffs refused to allow.
Gene Steams, who represented the Teos and their companies in the litigation, was able to do an “I told you so” to the media that published a story about the verdict, but ignored the judge’s words when the jury left the courtroom. “I share Judge Tuter’s conclusion that this trial was a circus,” he said. “All that the Huffs proved at trial was that the Teos met every commitment and then some. Anyone who reads the judge’s lengthy order will understand the indignity visited on the Teo family by overzealous advocacy in support of clients who attempted to make up for their failure in business by sleight of hand in a courtroom. Tmth and justice has prevailed over bigotry and prejudice,” Steams said.
“While the Huffs have the right to appeal,” he said, “the probability that an appellate court would find evidence from this trial to support a claim for liability or damages is zero.”
Alfred Teo and the Sigma companies will now pursue reimbursement of their legal fees from the Huffs.
Any questions should be directed to Gene Steams at 305-789-3400 [email protected]
Name: Gene Stearns
Email: [email protected]
Job Title: Lawyer