In recognition of receiving a summary judgment and prior dismissal on claims worth $28 million, Missouri Lawyers Weekly honored Danna McKitrick, P.C. Attorneys Daniel G. Tobben and Kara D. Helmuth, along with the rest of the defense team, as “Missouri Attorneys Securing the Largest Defense Verdicts in 2012” at the 2013 Missouri Lawyers Awards.
In June 2012, Tobben and Helmuth were part of a team that successfully represented an attorney against a legal malpractice lawsuit brought by Coin Acceptors, Inc.
In Coin Acceptors Inc. (“Coinco”) v. Haverstock, Garrett & Roberts et al., Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr. granted summary judgment in favor of the lawyers and law firms on the claims related to one of the disputed patents where the attorneys involved had allegedly mishandled patent infringement litigation. The claims related to alleged malpractice concerning a different patent were previously dismissed by Judge Dierker due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Collectively the claims were for $28 million against the attorneys and law firms who represented Coinco in the original litigation, which began in 1990, and involved multiple Mars Inc. patents on two coin acceptor designs. Coinco ultimately lost its patent-infringement case, paying Mars a total of $27.7 million.
The federal court judge in the Mars v. Coinco case originally ruled in Coinco’s favor when he deemed the Mars’ patent invalid, thus finding no patent infringement by Coinco. However, following reargument, the judge changed his opinion on the validity and deemed the patent valid, which caused the patent infringement against Coinco to stand. By “correcting” his previous opinion, the judge ruled in favor of Mars and against Coinco.
In the malpractice lawsuit, Tobben, Helmuth and the rest of the defense team successfully argued that Coinco attorneys and its law firm are not liable to Coinco for the $27.7 million it paid out to Mars to settle the judgments in the underlying case.
According to an article published in Missouri Lawyers Weekly on the summary judgment in June 2012, Judge Dierker did not buy Coinco’s argument that “the federal judge would not have reversed himself had the lawyers not been negligent:”
“‘Judges, even federal judges, are presumed to know and follow the law, … and while judges may no doubt be misled by an attorney’s arguments, if a judge makes an error of law the source of that error can and must be the judge alone,’ he wrote in his 29-page judgment.”
Tobben’s assessment of the decision was straightforward: “‘If what you say happened didn’t cause the result, there’s no basis for a lawsuit.’”