Suncoast scores $24.5M verdict following trial of trade secret case

By David Yates | Oct 15, 2015

A Houston company recently scored a $24.5 million verdict against two individuals and their companies, successfully convincing a jury that its copyrighted techniques were used without permission.

Suncoast Post-Tension filed suit against Peter Scoppa, Sandeep Patel, PT USA and the Sterling Engineering Group on Oct. 23, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas, Houston Division.

According to the second amended complaint, Suncoast is the foremost supplier of post-tensioning materials for buildings and has developed, at great cost, a variety of highly proprietary and valuable knowledge, which it has sought to protect and keep confidential.

Patel is the founder of Sterling, an engineering firm, which until the formation of its subsidiary, PT USA, had no particular involvement in concrete post-tensioning in the U.S., the suit states.

“Rather than enter the post-tensioning field through legitimate means, Patel and his companies Sterling and PT USA misappropriated Suncoast’s trade secrets, proprietary information, and long-existing goodwill for their benefit,” the suit states. “On at least one occasion, Patel attempted to recruit a Suncoast high-level employee to accomplish this goal.”

Scoppa, a former Suncoast branch manager with access to the company’s trade secrets, signed an employment agreement with PT USA on Oct. 1, 2012, to serve as the company’s president.

He was still employed by Suncoast at the time, the suit states.

The suit further accused the defendants of knowingly infringing on Suncoast’s copyrighted works and passing them off as their own.

On Oct. 13 a jury concluded that Suncoast’s works were copyrighted and were willfully infringed upon by all of the defendants, court records show.

Jurors awarded Suncoast $8 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in statutory damages.

Jurors also found that the defendants acted with malice and disregard for the rights of others, awarding Suncoast a total of $13,520,000 in punitive damages.

Suncoast is represented in part by John Keville, attorney for the Houston law firm Winston & Strawn.

The defendants are represented in part by Gregory Ziegler, attorney for the Dallas law firm MacDonald Devin.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore is presiding over the case.

Case No. 4:13-cv-03125

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