West Palm Beach, FL—A Florida couple has appealed a trial judge's order last month wiping out their six-figure verdict in a stock fraud trial after the judge concluded the award lacked evidence to support it. Soffin v. Clean Coal Technologies, et al., 2010CA028706.
Judge Richard Oftedal, of Florida’s 15th Circuit, granted a defense motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict following identical awards of more than $405,000 on Yessenia and William Soffin’s claims of negligent misrepresentation and fraud against Clean Coal Technologies Inc. and others.
Those awards capped a four-day trial covered by CVN last April, in which the Soffins claimed they lost millions of dollars because Clean Coal representatives made false promises regarding the removal of more than 15 million shares that the couple owned in the company.
The jury verdict set off a dispute among the parties over how much of the award was potentially recoverable.
However, in an opinion dated August 1, Judge Oftedal concluded that the verdict had no evidence to support it, based in large part on questions concerning whether the market could have absorbed the sale of all 15 million shares in one day, and how such an influx of the company’s stock would have affected its price. “There is absolutely no way to gauge or determine with any degree of certainty what the price of those shares would be on any one day,” Judge Oftedal wrote.
The judge noted plaintiffs had offered evidence of the stock’s alleged six-fold increase in value during a 17-fold increase in trading volume in 2010, one year after the Soffins claimed they were first denied their sale request. However, the judge concluded the evidence was irrelevant, reasoning the market was too different during the two time periods to properly estimate damages. “Moreover,” the judge reasoned, “the fact that the market reacted in such a volatile fashion only underscores the difficulty and inherent uncertainty in attempting to predict the effect of such a massive infusion of stock into a small and limited market such as existed in February of 2009. The stock price may soar or it may tank. Nobody can tell.”
Judge Oftedal concluded the damage figure itself showed it had no basis to support it. “The jury’s own verdict reflects that it was a product of guesswork and conjecture,” the judge wrote. “There is no support in the record for an award of $810,306.72 of lost profits, a fact admitted to by both counsel….”
Plaintiffs filed a notice appealing the decision last week.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected].
Yessinia Soffin is represented by Jacobson Law's Jon Jacobson and Zebersky Payne LLP's Jordan Shaw.
Clean Coal Technologies Inc. and Douglas Hague are represented by Kopelowitz Ostrow's Jan Atlas and Kristen Cardoso.
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