This is a fascinating court case.
AUSTIN, Texas, July 30 /PRNewswire/ — Attorneys from Fish & Richardson P.C. today announced a $28 million breach of contract verdict delivered in favor of computer gaming pioneer Richard Garriott against South Korea-based NCsoft Corp.
Jurors in the case found that NCsoft breached its stock option agreement with Mr. Garriott by falsely stating that he left the company voluntarily in order to force him to exercise his stock options during a down market.
Mr. Garriott is a legend in the video game industry, and was among the first to develop and market role-playing video games. In 2001, NCsoft acquired Mr. Garriott’s company, Destination Games.
In 2008, Mr. Garriott took a pre-approved temporary leave of absence from NCsoft to pursue his lifelong dream of space flight. The son of a NASA astronaut who spent time aboard the Skylab space station and Space Shuttle, Mr. Garriott traveled aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.
During his post-flight quarantine, Mr. Garriott was informed by NCsoft that his time with the company was over.
As part of NCsoft’s purchase of Destination Games, Mr. Garriott was issued stock options valid through May 30, 2011. These options were to remain in place in the event of his termination by the company, but would expire within 90 days in the case of his voluntary departure.
When Mr. Garriott was let go during NCsoft’s reorganization of its North American operations, the company claimed his termination was a voluntary resignation, his attorneys argued during the trial.
Because NCsoft mischaracterized his termination as voluntary, Mr. Garriott was forced to sell his stock options 2 1/2 years early, costing him millions of dollars. Jurors found NCsoft liable for breaching the stock option agreement with Mr. Garriott, and awarded him $28 million in damages.
“In Texas, a deal is a deal, no matter how a company might try to spin the events after the fact,” says Fish & Richardson principal Stephen E. Fox, lead counsel for Mr. Garriott. “We’re pleased that the jury listened to the facts in this case, and decided it is ‘game over’ for NCsoft’s attempt to deny Richard what he is rightfully owed.”
The July 29, 2010, verdict in Richard Garriott v. NCsoft Corp., No. A09 CA 357 SS, was handed down following a three-and-a-half-day trial and three hours of deliberations by a jury appearing before the Hon. Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.
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