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Politics & Money

Appeals court throws out $706 million jury verdict against Amrock, orders new trial

HouseCanary can re-try claims of trade-secret theft, court rules

A $706 million jury verdict against Amrock in 2018 was tossed out on Wednesday by a Texas appeals court after it ruled the jury considered invalid legal theories.

The Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio ordered a new trial and said it wouldn’t decide on other arguments made during the appeal by HouseCanary, a real estate tech firm, and Amrock, formerly named Title Source.

“In light of our disposition of these issues, we need not consider the parties’ remaining arguments,” Justice Beth Watkins wrote in the decision.

Amrock, owned by Rock Holdings which also owns Quicken Loans, had contracted in 2015 with HouseCanary to develop an automated valuation model application for appraisers to use in the field. Amrock sued for breach of contract and developed its own software after it claimed HouseCanary failed to deliver the application.

HouseCanary countersued, claiming Amrock had stolen its intellectual property, formulas, algorithms, models, analytics, and collected a “critical mass” of HouseCanary’s proprietary data to use in its own application.

HouseCanary can retry its claims, the appeals court said. The court agreed with the jury that Amrock failed to prove its claim that HouseCanary didn’t deliver a working app, and said that part of the case can’t be retried.

Almost half of the court’s 26-page decision reviewed the trial evidence detailing Amrock’s alleged misconduct, before setting it aside to order a new trial based on errors in instructing the jury.

“The court’s ruling on technical objections to the jury charge does not undermine the strength of the evidence underlying our contract or tort claims,” HouseCanary said in a statement. “If one is needed, we welcome a new trial.”

Amrock’s attorney said she is looking forward to a new trial, as well.

“Amrock will be vindicated and a new jury will conclude that Amrock was never given, and never used, any of HouseCanary’s purported trade secrets,” said Catherine Stone of Langley & Banack, Amrock’s chief appellate litigator.

The jury’s 2018 award of $706 million in actual and punitive damages had grown to $740 million with the addition of interest and attorneys’ fees.

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