A $103 million verdict was returned against Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie and one of its attorneys by a Jones County, Miss., jury.
The case centers on Joel Held, a Baker & McKenzie attorney based in Dallas, who represented both sides of an oil-rig-drilling business that turned sour for one client while benefiting the other, according to court documents.
A spokesman for Baker & McKenzie said the law firm strongly disagrees with the verdict.
“We are confident we acted in a manner that was entirely consistent with our professional obligations and that no harm was done to the plaintiffs,” Baker and McKenzie said in a statement. “We will continue to argue our position vigorously and expect we will be vindicated. As this is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.”
The suit was brought by S. Lavon Evans Jr., who had sought $150 million in actual and punitive damages. He began a drilling company in 1995 in Laurel, Miss., and four years later began drilling wells for businessman Reed Cagle, whose various businesses were represented by Held and Baker & McKenzie, according to the suit.
Cagle introduced Evans to his attorney, Held, whom Evans retained. And for the next several years, Cagle and Evans engaged in various business ventures, including construction of two drilling rigs while Held represented both men.
What Evans didn’t know, according to the suit, was that Cagle was insolvent and, despite an agreement that disallowed it, was using Evans’ significant assets, with Held’s help, to obtain millions of dollars in loans.
In one instance, unbeknownst to Evans, Cagle allegedly used a drilling rig as collateral to obtain a $7 million loan, according to court documents, while at the same time he refused to pay invoices for the rig’s construction or money he owed Evans. Meanwhile, after the rigs were built without any contribution from Cagle, he and his attorneys attempted through various means to give Cagle ownership of the rigs, the suit alleges.