San Diego, CA – A federal court jury on May 4 unanimously found (8-0) that the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) intentionally interfered with contracts of United National Maintenance (United) when it implemented a policy effectively blocking United from working at the SDCC. The jury awarded United $668,905 in damages from the SDCCC after two weeks of deliberations. The eight-member jury found that the SDCCC policy interfered with contracts United had with Global Experience Specialist (GES) and Champion Exposition Services. The jury unanimously rejected SDCCC’s defense that its conduct was justified based on security concerns, cleaning quality concerns or other business reasons.
“I am very appreciative that the jury took so much time in deliberating and came up with a just verdict in finding the conduct of the convention center was unlawful,” said Richard Simon, president & CEO of United Services Companies, the parent company of both United National Maintenance and Trade Show Executive.
Smacks of Anti-Trust
The case had been closely watched by the trade show industry since many considered the SDCCC policy as establishing an exclusive in which show organizers and general service contractors would be limited to the convention center as the sole source of cleaning services. Prominent show organizers testified at trial or sent letters to the SDCCC asking them to reconsider the policy.
The SDCCC policy implemented in July, 2007 required United, and all other trade show cleaning companies, to use convention center staff rather than their own crews. United had competed with SDCCC for trade show cleaning services using its own crews since the building opened in 1989. The SDCCC policy also required that 100% of booth cleaning revenue typically received by cleaning contractors be paid to SDCCC regardless of which company the decorator chose to do the cleaning. United argued that the SDCCC policy effectively eliminated competition because the resulting cost difference made it impossible for United to operate profitably in the center.
Although the eight-member jury came to a verdict on the intentional interference claim, they deadlocked after two weeks of deliberations on the anti-trust claims asserted by United, setting the stage for a second trial. Lead trial attorney James Lance of Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge said, “This is an outstanding result for United. We received 100% of what we requested on the intentional interference claim. In addition, we are very confident going forward with a second trial on the anti-trust claims, based on the comments made by jurors after the trial, that one lone juror caused the deadlock on those claims.”
SDCCC Seeks Dismissal
The management of the convention center indicated it would seek to have the unsettled allegations dismissed. “The jury’s verdict has not been finalized as a judgment because SDCCC’s counsel advised the court it intends to bring certain post-trial motions,” they said in a statement e-mailed to Trade Show Executive. “SDCCC will move for a judgment in its favor, and also for a declaration of mistrial as to the entire matter.” The SDCCC statement said a hearing would likely be scheduled within a few days.