Jury sides with defendant in trial between competing yoga centers

David Yates Dec. 12, 2011, 7:11am

A yoga enthusiast who also practiced law did not breach her fiduciary duty to the woman who hired her to use both talents.

As previously reported, Nicole Griffin Chance filed a lawsuit Oct. 13, 2010, in Jefferson County District Court against Jessica Depew, Michael Depew and Golden Triangle Yoga.

In early 2010, Chance, the owner of Power Yoga, hired Jessica Depew, one of her instructors, who also allegedly worked as a lawyer, to assist her in her divorce.

However, Chance did not go through with the divorce and now faces competition from Golden Triangle Yoga, a studio Depew opened after allegedly gaining access to Chance's records.

The case went to trial on Dec. 7 and ended two days later, with jurors finding that Depew did not breach her fiduciary duty to Chance.

According to the charge of the court, the jury declined to award Chance any damages for her economic loss and mental anguish.

Court records show that after Chance informed her staff at Power Yoga of her intention to divorce her husband, Jessica Depew approached Chance, offering her assistance as a lawyer in exchange for continued yoga instruction.

The suit says Chance decided to hire Jessica Depew and provided her with business and financial records, which she delivered to Michael Depew's office. At the time, Chance believed Michael Depew to be a lawyer, also.

According to the lawsuit, Chance discovered the Depews had lied to her about their professions. Michael Depew owned a computer business and had never worked as a lawyer or even attended law school. After Jessica Depew failed to pay state bar taxes and state taxes, the Texas bar suspended her on Sept. 9, 2009, from practicing law.

"Plaintiff learned only recently of Defendants' endeavor to open a competing yoga studio within 1,000 yards of her own studio," the suit states.

"Plaintiff further learned that Defendant, Michael Depew, threatened to sue a colleague of the Plaintiff if he provided Plaintiff further information about their new business. More specifically, Defendant, Michael Depew, claimed that he was a lawyer and would take the person to court if he revealed information to Plaintiff about their new studio."

Ryan W. Gertz of Gertz Adair Law Firm in Beaumont represents Chance.

Beaumont attorney Marc Henry of Henry & Fuller represents the defendants.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, presided over the trial.

Case No. A188-595

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