Caterpillar, the world’s biggest construction equipment manufacturer, has been ordered to pay US$73.6 million (€67.6 million) in damages in a lawsuit by a former supplier that accused the US giant of misappropriating its trade secrets.
A federal jury in Chicago, USA awarded the damages to British manufacturer Miller UK on Friday 18 December, reports Reuters news agency, with the verdict confirmed yesterday by Reed Oslan, a lawyer for Miller, which filed the lawsuit in 2010.
Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts said that the company was disappointed by the verdict and was considering its next steps.
According to the lawsuit, Miller had long supplied Caterpillar with a device called a coupler that enables the operator of a hydraulic excavator to attach tools such as buckets and hammers.
In 2008, Caterpillar developed its own coupler product and moved to end its supply agreement with Miller, reports Reuters.
Miller said Caterpillar's product was based on confidential information it supplied and accused the company of misappropriating its trade secrets.
The case has been noted in legal circles because of how Miller, a family-owned business with 100 employees, financed the litigation through third-party funding.
Court documents indicate Miller received financing from Juris Capital LLC, a privately held commercial litigation funding firm in Chicago, and Highland Park, Illinois-based Arena Consulting LLC.
David Desser, Juris Capital's managing director, said in a statement that he was "pleased with the jury verdict and very happy for the Miller family."
Miller plans to seek interest and attorneys’ fees on top of the $73.6 million verdict, which could bring the award to more than $100 million (€91.9 million), said Oslan.
Oslan, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, declined to say how much of the award Juris or Arena are eligible to receive.