Team Skills & Experience Brief:
- Best Law Firms, Tier 1 Ranking, Commercial Litigation, Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina, offices.
- Best Law Firms, Tier 1 Ranking, Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants, Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina, offices.
- The Team, along with members of the Railroad Team, served as defense counsel for Norfolk Southern in a case in which the Plaintiff was seeking damages for lost business value, business interruption and property damage in excess of $400M.
- The Team represented an international manufacturer of industrial transformers in a business tort dispute with a manufacturer and successfully obtained the largest sanction award against plaintiff’s counsel in South Carolina history.
- The Team served as statewide counsel for a national telecommunications client in federal court litigation involving claims of piracy and other unauthorized use of the client’s programming.
- Team members have represented Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina in significant business litigation including successfully defending the company in a purported class and derivative action brought by policyholders (see the link to the decision below).
- The Team prevailed at summary judgment in a matter in which it represented a music industry investor in a suit against an agent for the mismanagement of investment funds, failure to repay investors and for alleged improperly converting ownership and publication rights of a nationally recognized rock band.
- The Team represented a trucks parts supplier regarding the manufacture and design of a component part in a significant business tort dispute.
Business & Commercial Litigation Team
The Business and Commercial Litigation Team represents corporate and individual clients in business disputes, arbitration and litigation. Team members are experienced in handling complex litigation matters related to all types of business disputes. Significant business and commercial litigation handled by the Team includes matters involving:
- Shareholder Disputes
- Trade Secrets
- Covenants Not to Compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements
- Business Torts
- Contract Disputes
- Corporate Finance
- Sales Transactions
- Debtor and Creditor Rights
- Real Estate and Land Use Issues
Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company
One of the most significant cases undertaken by the Business and Commercial Litigation Team was Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company. In Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, C.A. No. 1:05-cv-2817-MBS (DSC 2005), GWB shareholders Howard Boyd, Phil Reeves, Ron Wray, and Chris Kelly teamed with attorneys from several other firms in representing Norfolk Southern Corporation and Norfolk Southern Railway Company. The case arose from the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in Graniteville, South Carolina. Avondale Mills alleged that chlorine released as a result of the derailment caused property damage to its textile plant in Graniteville. Avondale further claimed that the property damage it sustained ultimately led it to terminate its operations at all of its facilities and locations and sought over $450,000,000 in actual damages for remediation costs, business interruption, and lost business value. Avondale also sought punitive damages, making the total damages sought approximately One Billion Dollars.
Trial of the case began on March 10, 2008 in Federal Court in Columbia, South Carolina. GWB attorneys not only handled significant aspects of the trial, but also played vital roles in the case preparation and work-up. This included multiple Daubert motions regarding expert testimony sought to be offered by Plaintiffs, as well as numerous summary judgment and discovery-related motions.
The parties estimated the case would take approximately 3 or 4 months to try. Had the case gone to verdict, it would have been one of the longest trials ever conducted in South Carolina state or federal court. However, following nearly one month of trial, during which numerous lay witnesses and experts testified, the case settled on April 4, 2008.
Team members have handled a number of other complex matters for their business clients. For example, Team members served as statewide counsel for a national telecommunications client in federal court litigation involving claims of piracy and other unauthorized use of the client’s programming under the Federal Communications Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. They successfully tried the first of such cases nationwide and prosecuted more than 160 cases against over 300 defendants for intercepting or assisting in the interception of encrypted programming.
In addition, the Team represented a national finance company in the collection of over a million dollars in loans to a borrower and his related entities. The matter involved the foreclosure of multiple parcels of real estate in several counties, the recovery of fraudulently conveyed assets, and the litigation of claims in bankruptcy court.
In another case, the Team represented an international manufacturer of industrial transformers in a business tort dispute with a steel manufacturer. Plaintiff alleged that it received a defective transformer which ultimately failed, resulting in millions of dollars of consequential damages and loss of market share. During the discovery phase, the Team established that Plaintiff’s damages were exaggerated and that Plaintiff’s counsel withheld thousands of damaging, critical documents. As a result, a summary judgment motion and sanction motion was filed. The court sanctioned plaintiff’s counsel almost $1,000,000.00. To this day, the sanction award is the largest in South Carolina history. The case subsequently resolved very favorably.
In another matter handled by the Team, Plaintiff alleged that thousands of component parts it received were designed improperly and failed to perform within the desired application. Plaintiff alleged that it lost a significant customer and a large percentage of its market share resulting in millions of dollars in consequential damages. During the discovery phase, the Team established that Plaintiff was grossly inflating its damages, provided faulty information during the design phase and that critical, damaging data was withheld in discovery. As a result, the case resolved for less than the legal defense costs.
Business and Commercial Litigation Team members also have class action experience within several industries, as well as in electronic discovery matters, the creation of document management programs, and in assisting clients in alternative dispute resolution. Some of these industries include:
- Commercial Transportation
- Financial Institutions
- Industrial Machinery and Equipment
The Team’s clients are located throughout the United States and include individuals, well-known publicly traded companies, and privately held entities. A number of these clients have been with the Firm long-term and continue to turn to GWB for counsel and advice. A sample of these clients include:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina
- Norfolk Southern Railway Company
- DIRECTV, Inc.
- Daimler Trucks North America
- Guardian Building Products
- Palmetto Bank
- South Carolina Bank and Trust
- First Citizens Bank
- Click here to review South Carolina Business Court decisions, including Covan v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC.
- Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, C.A. No. 1:05-cv-2817-MBS (DSC 2005)
- Tom Vanderbloemen – Team Leader/Shareholder
- Howard Boyd - Shareholder
- Johnston Cox – Shareholder
- Gray Culbreath – Shareholder
- John Hudson – Shareholder
- Jennifer Johnsen – Shareholder
- Chris Kelly – Shareholder
- John T. Lay – Shareholder
- Billy McGee – Shareholder
- Duffie Powers – Shareholder
- Ron Wray – Shareholder
Attorney Jennifer Johnsen Interviewed by Mike Switzer of SC Business Review on Diversity Initiatives for Businesses
Shareholder and Diversity Committee Chair, Jennifer Johnsen, was interviewed on National Public Radio by Mike Switzer of SC Business Review on diversity initiatives for businesses.
Court Awards Record Sanction In Business Dispute
GWB represented an international manufacturer of industrial transformers in a business tort dispute with a steel manufacturer.
Spoliation: A Trap for the Unwary
Issuing sanctions for spoliation of evidence relevant to the issues in pending litigation is not new to our civil justice system. However, the number of claims of spoliation in litigation has risen dramatically in recent years with the increased use of electronic data and emails in the ordinary course of business.
GWB Defends Largest Property Damage Claim in South Carolina History
One of the most significant cases undertaken by the Business and Commercial Litigation Team was Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company.