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Jury awards $940 million in trade secret dispute

In any legal dispute, a reasonable, satisfactory settlement can be reached before the case goes to court. Working out a settlement can be possible with legal guidance, support and considerable negotiations, which is often preferable for business owners and individuals who want to avoid expense and time associated with courtroom litigation.

However, this is not always possible and ultimately, the resolution for a business dispute can be left in the hands of a judge and jury. That appears to be the situation in a case that has resulted one of the most expensive verdicts for a trade secret dispute in history.

The case began back in 2014 when Epic Systems, a national medical record systems company, filed a lawsuit against Tata Consultancies. Tata provides IT services and worked for Epic to install their systems at a hospital group.

As a result of that relationship, Tata had access to sensitive information. Epic claims that Tata illegally downloaded confidential, proprietary information which it later used to help a competing company.

A federal court jury agreed with Epic and found Tata guilty of seven offenses cited in the lawsuit. The jury awarded $240 million on compensatory damages to Epic to reflect the financial damage suffered and also awarded a whopping $700 million in punitive damages, which are ordered specifically to punish a party for wrongdoing. 

The $940 million award is one of the largest of its kind, and it is far more than any settlement the two parties might have agreed to outside of court. Not surprisingly, Tata is planning to appeal.

This case highlights a couple different elements of these types of cases. On one hand, they can result in higher awards for wronged party; on the other hand, they can be extremely lengthy and appeals, which are not uncommon, can drag the process out even further. When all is said and done, the awards might be higher, but the cost of litigation can be higher as well.

Weighing the pros and cons of a particular method of dispute resolution can be crucial in cases like this one. Examining the options and your goals with your attorney if you are facing a similar situation can therefore be essential.

Source: Reuters, "Epic Systems wins $940 mln U.S. jury verdict in Tata trade secret case," Jonathan Weber, April 18, 2016

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