Midlothian, TX. – This week a federal district court has made final rulings after a Nebraska jury handed down its April 2023 verdict that Wright Printing Company, its owner Mark Wright and its CEO Mardra Sikora were liable to an Ennis, Inc. subsidiary, Crabar/GBF, Inc., for $5 million in actual and punitive damages for breach of contract, illegal interference with customer relationships and theft of trade secrets. At the time of the jury verdict in April, Mardra Sikora responded that the jury verdict was a “wrongful decision” that was not supported by the facts. Accordingly, lawyers for Wright Printing Company, Mark Wright and Mardra Sikora requested reversal of the jury verdict and a new trial.
After substantial legal briefing by both sides and months of careful deliberation, Senior United States District Judge John Gerrard affirmed most of the jury’s findings and denied the defendants’ request for a new trial. In so doing, Judge Gerrard stated in his 39-page ruling that, “The evidence supports the jury’s finding that the defendants, clearly and convincingly, acted willfully and maliciously when they took information sold to Crabar to compete against it.” In response to the arguments by Mark Wright and Mardra Sikora that they did not illegally interfere with Crabar’s customer relationships, the judge concluded that “the defendants’ arguments lack any conceivable merit.” While the judge reversed the jury’s award of contract damages against Mark Wright because Ennis had not made a claim for those damages, he observed that, “The jury determined that the manner in which Wright Printing reentered the folder business was deceitful and unlawful, and even malicious.” Displaying some humor, the judge summarized the overall jury verdict by noting, “According to the jury, collecting $15 million for a sale of a company, and then restarting that company with the information sold as part of that sale, violates a deep-held philosophy of justice: no take-backsies.”
Ultimately, the judge placed the primary blame for the drawn-out lawsuit on Mark Wright and Mardra Sikora. His ruling stated, “The Court has considered that Wright and Sikora are primarily responsible for both the inception of this lawsuit and many of the hours spent preparing this case for trial.” Accordingly, Judge Gerrard awarded Crabar $1,854,948.32 for its attorney’s fees and ordered Wright and Sikora to pay $1,852,448.32 of that amount, with the remaining $2,500.00 to be paid by the employee defendants, Jamie Fredrickson and Alexandra Kohlhaas, for their participation in the theft of Crabar’s trade secrets.
When asked about the Court’s ruling, Ennis CEO and President Keith Walters provided the following comment. “Ennis is grateful for the jury’s dedicated service during last spring’s two-week trial and the Court’s careful review of all the evidence over the past several months to ensure a fair and final judgment. While we are pleased that the truth prevailed and we were awarded what the jury found to be just compensation for the harms caused by the defendants, we really wish that this lawsuit never had to happen in the first place. In all the business acquisitions Ennis has made over the years, we have never had a situation where a seller has turned around and launched a competing business with the trade secrets sold to Ennis. Had Mark Wright and Mardra Sikora just honored the contract and accepted that they no longer could use the property that we bought for $15 million, everyone concerned would have been better off. Now that both the jury and the judge have spoken, I hope that all involved will have the wisdom to respect and accept their judgment, and bring this drawn-out dispute to an end.”