Total State Verdicts: $2,110,496,010
Total Federal Verdicts: $2,891,586,112
Top Sub-Industries: Software, Telecommunications, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals
All $2.8 Billion In Federal Corporate Nuclear Verdicts Came From the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA)
Outlier $2 Billion Verdict Drove Up State Verdict Total
Known As the “Rocket Docket,” EDVA’s Speed Creates Element of Surprise
Majority of Verdicts Were Intellectual Property Cases, Which EDVA Attends to At Same Fast Rate As Other Cases
Though state and federal nuclear verdicts appear aligned in Virginia, the state total was largely driven by one verdict, for $2 billion in Appian Corp. v. Pegasystems Inc., an intellectual property matter. In that case, a Fairfax County jury found Pegasystems guilty in May 2022 of trade secret misappropriation and for violations of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act.
Virginia notably caps punitive damages at $350,000; the $2 billion in Appian Corp. v. Pegasystems Inc. was entirely compensatory, which limits the company’s options for having its verdict slashed. Marathon found that without this case, Virginia’s state total for corporate nuclear verdicts would only total $73 million in three cases.
Overall, Marathon’s analysis found that all $2.8 billion in federal nuclear verdicts were ordered by juries in one of Virginia’s two district courts, the US District Court for the Eastern District (EDVA). EDVA has jurisdiction over the Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond metro areas and surrounding locations. By contrast, the $73 million in state verdicts came from three different courts: in Portsmouth City, Newport News, and Richmond City.
EDVA was among the first to be dubbed a “Rocket Docket” following the influence of Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr., who would rule on the spot when motions were argued and could try an entire case in one afternoon. For 11 years through 2018, the EDVA was the nation’s fastest civil trial court – and this pace continued through COVID-19. This speed is not due to a reduced caseload, as the EDVA has ranked among the courts with the greatest number of complex commercial cases filed annually.
EDVA’s fast docket makes it an appealing venue for sophisticated parties seeking prompt resolution of complex disputes. Court rules streamline the discovery process and discovery disputes are handled immediately. Parties have a short time to complete discovery, and many motions may be briefed and argued with just days’ notice. Objections to discovery must also be filed much earlier than Federal Rules or other courts require. The EDVA’s speed gives special advantage to plaintiffs, who enjoy an element of surprise and preparation before filing a case.
The Rocket Docket has had a reputation for tending to intellectual property matters at the same rate as other types of cases, even in complicated patent matters. Unlike other civil litigants, patent holders seek a speedy injunction to prevent further infringement and price erosion, as well as to preserve market share – so a prompt resolution of disputes is key for strengthening the value of intellectual property.
Indeed, Marathon’s analysis found that eight of the twelve federal corporate nuclear verdicts in Virginia arose from complex intellectual property matters. These included the blockbuster 2019 $1 billion verdict in Sony Music Entertainment v. Cox Communications, Inc, filed in July 2018. In that case, an EDVA jury ordered telecom company Cox Communications to pay over 50 music companies for piracy infringement on more than 10,000 works. The second-highest verdict, for $919.9 million in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Industries, was also an intellectual property matter concerning the alleged theft of trade secrets related to a fiber used in making Kevlar bulletproof vests. The case was filed in February 2009 and the verdict ordered in September 2011, though it was later voided on appeal.
Though only one corporate nuclear verdict was ordered by a jury in EDVA in 2022, it was for $185 million in another intellectual property matter, The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York v. Symantec Corporation, initially filed in 2013. In this case, the jury found in May 2022 that cybersecurity company NortonLifeLock – formerly Symantec – infringed on two patents owned by Columbia University related to fighting malware. The verdict could rise as high as $555 million because the jury found that Norton infringed the patents willfully. Columbia filed a motion for enhanced damages in June.
Legal Services Advertising
Though Virginia has not seen a drastic escalation in attorney advertising, according to the ATR Foundation and Kantar, spending on local advertisements for legal services and/or soliciting legal claims in the state totaled $70 million from 2017 to 2021.
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Corporate Verdicts Go Thermonuclear
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