On October 13, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas reversed a jury verdict against former Tyco International subsidiary, ADT Security Services, Inc., and rendered judgment in ADT’s favor. Shook, Hardy & Bacon Partners Charlie Eblen and Kristi Burmeister tried the case on ADT’s behalf and prosecuted the appeal. Plaintiff sued ADT seeking over $2 million in damages, not including treble damages, attorney’s fees, and interest, following a burglary at Plaintiff’s jewelry store. The case proceeded to trial on Plaintiff’s claim that ADT violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) by misrepresenting the quality of the alarm system sold by ADT.
On the last day of trial, the trial court allowed Plaintiff to add a previously undisclosed DTPA theory as a basis for liability in the jury instructions. The jury subsequently rejected the two validly disclosed DTPA theories but found in Plaintiff’s favor on a third, which asked whether the alarm system “functioned in compliance with all applicable UL standards”. The instruction made a plaintiff’s verdict a foregone conclusion because it was undisputed that the alarm system failed to function properly. The jury ultimately awarded $1.1M and the final judgment with interest and DTPA attorney fees was just over $1.7M. The jury rejected Plaintiff’s request for treble damages.
On appeal, ADT argued that the Court should disregard the jury’s verdict and enter judgment for ADT because (1) the untimely DTPA theory should not have been submitted to the jury; (2) the successful verdict rested upon a mere breach of contract that is not actionable under the DTPA; and (3) the DTPA jury instructions deviated substantially from the pattern instructions and were legally improper. Just three weeks after argument, the Court of Appeals sided with ADT and held the verdict was legally deficient because, at most, the jury’s finding amounted to contract breach by ADT, not a violation of the DTPA. The client was thrilled with the result after seven years of litigation. Additionally, the well-crafted opinion will have significant precedential value in future cases.
The case is ADT Security Services, Inc. v. Van Peterson Fine Jewelers. An opinion on the case can be found here.