Best Law Firms Rankings

Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, L.L.P.

1 National Ranking & 7 Metro Rankings

Significant Matters

On February 25, 2016, after less than two hours of deliberations, the federal court jury in New Orleans found the BP well site leader Robert Kaluza not guilty of violating the Clean Water Act.  The verdict concludes nearly six years of the government prosecution of Mr. Kaluza, who has been represented since May 2010 by SKV partners Shaun Clarke and Dane Ball.  “The jury has spoken.  And what the jury said is Bob Kaluza is not guilty as accused,” said Clarke.  “It is a complete vindication of an honorable man who spent decades of his life in this hard work and who refused to give into the government’s charges, no matter the pressure and difficulties it presented to his life.”  In 2012, the government filed 23 federal criminal charges against Mr. Kaluza, who had been assigned to the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig a day before an explosion on the rig on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers and led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.  The government’s charges included 11 counts alleging simple negligent manslaughter; 11 counts alleging gross negligent manslaughter; and 1 count alleging negligent water pollution under the Clean Water Act. The defense team obtained a significant victory in December 2013 to dismiss most of the charges on legal grounds.  Following an oral argument by Ball, the district court dismissed the 11 felony counts alleging simple negligent manslaughter because the statute—18 U.S.C. § 1115, sometimes called “seaman’s manslaughter”—applies only to those working in marine operations, not to those working in drilling operations.  Since another company was the operator of the marine operations, Mr. Kaluza, who worked on the drilling side of the rig, could not be liable under a statute that only applied to marine operations.   Clarke then argued the case to a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that unanimously affirmed the dismissal in March 2015.  Believing that the government still overreached in its legal case against Mr. Kaluza, the defense team then made legal arguments to dismiss the 11 remaining counts alleging gross negligent manslaughter, arguing jurisdictional and other pleading defects.  After those motions were filed, on December 2, 2015, the Department of Justice voluntarily requested dismissal of the 11 remaining manslaughter charges.  The district court granted that motion. Trial on the remaining Clean Water Act count – the single remaining charge out of the government’s original 23 – then began February 16, 2016.  During the nearly two-week trial, Clarke and Ball presented evidence that Mr. Kaluza not only acted as a reasonably prudent well site leader, but also did not cause the blowout.  Clarke and Ball tried the case, along with David Gerger of Quinn Emanuel, and SKV partner David Isaak led the legal briefing before and during trial.  In addition, SKV partner Chris Bryan, of counsel Kristin Adler, and associate Alex Wolf all played key roles on the defense team and contributed to the outcome in favor of Mr. Kaluza. The verdict not only ends years of litigation but most important, clears the name of an innocent man who had the courage to stand up to a federal government that never should have indicted him.

After winning a federal jury trial for the Quantlab companies in a significant trade secrets case in May 2015, Lee Kaplan, Ty Doyle and Alex Wolf have now secured a permanent injunction against the two defendants who elected not to resolve the case prior to trial.  After extensive briefing and argument over the scope of the permanent injunction, the Court agreed with Quantlab that defendants Andriy Kuharsky and Emmanuel Mamalakis should be enjoined from use of Quantlab’s trade secrets, including a two-year prohibition on participation in the automated high-frequency trading business without application to and approval from the Court. Click here for a copy of the Court’s injunction.  Kuharsky worked for Quantlab as a quantitative researcher for six years.  Mamalakis is a Wisconsin attorney/investor who was the CEO of a company set up to exploit Quantlab’s trade secrets.  Following a two-week trial, a jury on May 20, 2015 assessed $12.2 million in damages—$7.2 million against Kuharsky and $5 million against Mamalakis— for misappropriation of trade secrets and conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets.  The Court is expected to enter a final judgment for damages and attorneys’ fees.  Quantlab’s win at trial is in addition to $28.5 million each in stipulated judgments reached with four defendants who settled prior to trial.  SKV’s co-counsel from Littler Mendelson were Allan Neighbors and Scott McDonald, who handled important technical witnesses during the trial.  The case is styled Quantlab Technologies Ltd. (BVI) and Quantlab Financial, LLC, vs. Vitaliy Godlevsky, Andriy Kuharsky, Anna Maravina, Ping An, Emmanuel Mamalakis, and SXP Analytics, LLC, Case No. 09-cv-4039 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, Judge Keith Ellison presiding. 

On February 1, 2016, SKV attorneys Jeff Potts and Hector Chavez obtained an order transferring a patent case against their client, an oilfield technology company, to the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.  The patent plaintiff had filed suit in the Western District of Texas.  SKV persistently briefed the issue over a nine month period– filing a motion to transfer and a motion for reconsideration before the Western District, filing a mandamus before the Federal Circuit, and filing a renewed motion to transfer when remanded back to the Western District.  The persistence paid off when the Western District Court reversed its previous course of denying transfer and found persuasive the arguments that the litigation should be pursued in the more convenient venue of Houston.  The parties’ arguments and the Court’s ruling in part addressed whether there should be a division-by-division, not just district-by-district, comparison of convenience.

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