Smith Haughey achieves record trial verdict for client

Smith Haughey attorney Chris Berry recently tried a complex maritime case for our client, an owner of a freight hauling barge, and on September 6 obtained a jury verdict in our client’s favor for nearly $12 million, the largest verdict ever in Muskegon County. Our client leased the barge to the defendant for use in its great lakes freight hauling business.

 

The multi-year lease agreement required the defendant to repair and maintain the barge. However, when the demand for defendant’s business fell, the defendant elected to stop using the barge for two years, during which time it performed no maintenance or repair on the vessel. The defendant then returned the barge to our client and attempted to terminate its lease agreement early and escape its numerous contractual obligations based on a strained and contorted interpretation of the agreement. Our client sued the defendant for its breach of the contract. Smith Haughey and co-counsel from Chicago vigorously pursued the case and, when unable to obtain an appropriate settlement with the defendant, took it to trial.

 

Smith Haughey was able to pull back the curtain on the defendant’s actions to show that it was attempting to shirk its obligations not for a legitimate contractual reason, but because its business had become unprofitable, through no fault of our client. Berry was able to lay out the case to jurors in a compelling and understandable way, and the jury found in our client’s favor and awarded the full measure of damages. This verdict once again demonstrates that Smith Haughey has the strongest litigation team in the state and is not afraid to take a case to trial to achieve victory for our clients.