HouseCanary is one big step closer to collecting one of the largest and most unlikely legal awards in the history of the housing industry after a Texas judge denied Amrock’s request for a new trial in the two companies’ battle over the alleged theft of trade secrets.
Back in March, Amrock, the title insurance, settlement services, and valuations provider formerly known as Title Source, was ordered to pay $706.2 million to HouseCanary after a Texas jury found that Amrock fraudulently misappropriated HouseCanary’s real estate valuation technology and appraisal analytics and breached confidentiality and other agreements between the parties.
Then, in October, Judge David Canales of the 73rd District Court in Bexar County denied Amrock’s request to vacate the jury’s earlier decision and actually upped the award to just shy of $740 million.
Amrock vowed to fight the decision, claiming that HouseCanary’s case was built on “fraud and collusion,” confirmed by several whistleblowers who testified that HouseCanary did not develop any technology for Title Source as it was contractually obligated to.
More specifically, Amrock claimed that it had sworn affidavits from whistleblowers who stated that HouseCanary CEO Jeremy Sicklick conspired with the Amrock executive in charge of the initial negotiations between the two companies to willfully misrepresent the capabilities of HouseCanary’s products.
As part of that fight, Amrock requested a new trial, claiming that the jury was “simply duped and misled” by HouseCanary’s legal team’s tactics, which included “heated anti-corporate diatribes and personal attacks on Amrock’s counsel.”
Despite Amrock’s blockbuster claims, Judge Canales this week denied Amrock’s request for a new trial, moving HouseCanary closer to collecting the massive award from Amrock, which is owned by Quicken Loans’ parent company Rock Holdings.
The fight began back in 2015 when HouseCanary and Title Source (as it was known then) signed a contract that stipulated that HouseCanary would provide appraisal and real estate valuations data and information to Title Source.
But HouseCanary claimed that Title Source lied about its intended purpose in the agreement and instead used HouseCanary’s systems to gain access to its intellectual property, formulas, algorithms, models, analytics, products, and proprietary data.
HouseCanary also claimed that Title Source used HouseCanary’s products and offerings, like its AVMs, without paying for them; collected a “critical mass” of HouseCanary’s proprietary data; and ultimately used all of that information to “secretly replicate” HouseCanary’s protected technology and intellectual property.
According to HouseCanary, after the data and analytics provider finished 18 months of work for Title Source, Title Source refused to pay for the work HouseCanary did. Instead, Title Source sued HouseCanary in Texas court, claiming that HouseCanary’s products were “completely unusable.”
HouseCanary countersued, and in the course of that lawsuit, claimed that it discovered that Title Source had misappropriated its data and technology to allow Title Source and its related companies, including Quicken Loans, to develop its own competing property analytics and software.
The fight led to an explosive court battle that’s not over yet.
HouseCanary, unsurprisingly, is pleased with the court’s decision.
“The Court’s ruling today is exactly as HouseCanary expected. HouseCanary knew the Court would reject the charade and publicity campaign created by Title Source – which was an obvious effort to distract from the $740 million judgment finding that Title Source stole trade secrets from HouseCanary, concealed its theft and defrauded HouseCanary,” the company said in a statement provided to HousingWire.
“After Title Source boasted about having ‘whistleblowers’ who purportedly ‘bravely came forward,’ the truth came out during the hearing: Title Source and its affiliate Quicken Loans coerced or used the promise of business opportunities with every single one of these individuals – making their testimony completely suspect,” HouseCanary continued.
“Title Source and Quicken Loans continue to believe they are above the law --- just as they did when they took HouseCanary’s trade secrets and lied about it. Both companies have now admitted they were forced finally to stop using their automated valuation model based on the trade secrets taken from HouseCanary after conducting internal investigations,” HouseCanary concluded. “The Court’s ruling today demonstrates again that Title Source’s willful conduct and its refusal to accept responsibility for its actions will not be tolerated under the law.”
Amrock, on the other hand, called Canales’ decision “disappointing,” and said that it plans to appeal the decision all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, if need be.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision, particularly in light of the unequivocal and unrebutted testimony from four whistleblowers, all former HouseCanary executives, who bravely came forward as a matter of conscience after the verdict to reveal the truth about HouseCanary’s misconduct,” said Amrock attorney Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “The jury’s verdict simply cannot stand in light of this newly discovered evidence, and should be overturned on appeal.”
David Prichard, counsel for Amrock, said that he’s “never seen such evidence of a fraud being perpetrated on the court” in his 40 years as a lawyer. To have four whistleblowers independently testify to the shocking collusion, fraud, and cover up is unheard of,” Prichard said. “This decision will be appealed, and we will continue fighting for justice in this case, first in the Texas Court of Appeals, and if necessary, in the Texas Supreme Court.”