State high court reviews trade secrets suit

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi Supreme Court judges will consider whether dismissal of a major corporate lawsuit was right or wrong.

Attorneys for both sides in Eaton Corp. v. Frisby Aerospace argued their issues about a circuit court judge throwing out the lawsuit in 2010 because he said ethical violations warranted it.

Without a decision for Eaton, its appeals attorney, Luther Munford, told the court Monday, “The theft of 16,000 documents” from Eaton’s Jackson plant “will go entirely unpunished and uncompensated.”
Alan Perry, arguing for Frisby, said Eaton officials and attorneys knew about illegal communications to influence the outcome of the lawsuit by Eaton hire Ed Peters, once Hinds County’s district attorney, and his old friend, Judge Bobby

DeLaughter, who presided over the lawsuit.

Perry said the damage to his client is almost incalculable, given their inability to prove how much business they lost because of the legal action against them.

Presiding Justice William Waller Jr. said the court will take the issues under consideration and render its opinion.

The lawsuit stems from a 2002 exit of six Eaton engineers from Jackson to Frisby Aerospace in North Carolina. Two years later, when Frisby beat Eaton for a major contract for the hydraulic system on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, Eaton sued

Frisby alleging the company stole trade secrets through those ex-Eaton engineers.

Frisby denied the charges and counter-sued in Hinds County, claiming Eaton conspired to discourage other employees from leaving. Then-Judge Bobby DeLaughter presided over the case.

By 2007, Eaton secretly hired Ed Peters, a close friend of DeLaughter, to illegally influence the judge in its favor, although DeLaughter cited Eaton counsel for making false statements. When DeLaughter came under federal investigation in one of two judicial bribery cases connected with ex-Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, Senior Judge Swan Yerger was assigned to the case.

In 2010, Yerger ordered $1.5 million sanctions against Eaton and dismissed Eaton’s case, citing company misconduct. A year later, Eaton appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Today, Judge Jeffrey Weill presides over the case after Yerger’s retirement. Weill issued a blistering opinion against Eaton a year ago and Eaton asked for a new judge after Weill refused to step down.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com