Risk Update

Costly Conflicts — Failure to Follow Conflicts Order Contributes to $481m+ Award, Rio Vista Counsel Refuses Conflicts Waiver

Judge Boosts Damages, Sanctions Quinn Emanuel In Patent Case” —

  • “NortonLifeLock Inc. must pay Columbia University $481 million and cover some of the university’s attorneys’ fees after a Virginia federal judge more than doubled a jury’s award for patent infringement damages and held in civil contempt Norton’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.”
  • “Judge M. Hannah Lauck of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the attorneys’ fees as a sanction after the law firm allegedly failed to follow her order regarding a perceived conflict of interest in the firm’s representation of both Norton and a key witness.”
  • “Lauck sealed opinions explaining her orders until Oct. 12 to give both sides a chance to redact confidential information. She also gave them 30 days to reach a stipulation on the attorneys’ fees award.”
  • “In May 2022, a jury determined that NortonLifeLock—formerly known as Symantec Corp. and currently doing business as Gen Digital Inc.—willfully infringed patented technology involving computer security and intrusion detection software developed by researchers at Columbia University in New York City.”
  • “Before trial, Lauck ordered Quinn Emanuel to provide written descriptions of information it obtained from French researcher Marc Dacier, a former top Symantec executive, during the time the law firm represented both Dacier and Norton from 2017 through 2020, according to court documents.”
  • “In court filings, the lawyers explained they arranged for Dacier to give a deposition in Europe that wouldn’t have otherwise taken place because he’d already left the company. But Norton and its lawyers stressed they didn’t control Dacier, who they claimed was unwilling to travel from his current home in Saudi Arabia to testify at the US trial.”
  • “Quinn Emanuel initially cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to comply with Lauck’s order to disclose Dacier’s communications. But the firm subsequently provided a summary of information Dacier shared, and jurors were shown Dacier’s videotaped deposition.”
  • “Columbia accused Norton and Quinn Emanuel of preventing Dacier from testifying live and lying that he was ‘unavailable,’ arguing they knew his views hurt Norton’s case, according to a filing by the university. Lauck agreed and called Quinn Emanuel’s simultaneous representation of Norton and a key adverse witness an ‘appalling’ conflict of interest, according to court records. She gave jurors a ‘missing witness’ instruction, which let them assume Dacier’s testimony would’ve harmed Norton’s defense.”
  • “‘Quinn Emanuel respectfully disagrees with the district court’s finding and will be making our legal response in due course,’ the firm said in a statement.”

Rio Vista council rejects city law firm representing Flannery Associates” —

  • “Rio Vista’s [California] City Council voted against consenting to the law firm who represents the city also working for Flannery Associates LLC, the company buying thousands of acres of land in Solano County to build a new city.”
  • “The decision comes after the law firm Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard has worked with the city for a decade, but asked city leaders to also work with Flannery Associates to help arrange and document the water supply for the project.”
  • “The controversial group secretly bought up over 50,000 acres of land since 2017 to build a new city in Solano County. The land is mostly in and around Rio Vista and Travis Air Force Base, making Flannery Associates the largest land owner in the county.”
  • “Rio Vista residents opposed any sort of arrangements because of the conflict of interest, and not seeing any benefit of giving Flannery Associates influence over the local water supply.”
  • “A representative with a law firm says they brought this to city leaders because of conflict of interest in the future. But added this would be a benefit for the city as they have a familiar face to work with when speaking with Flannery Associates.”

For more general background on this one, see: “Who is behind Flannery Associates, the mystery California land buyers?