McKool Smith, along with Yetter Coleman LLP, has secured a $30 million jury verdict on behalf of Twinwood Cattle Company, Inc. (“Twinwood”) against the American Akaushi Association (“AAA”), HeartBrand Holdings, Inc. (“HeartBrand”) and the Chairman of the Board of both companies, Ronald Beeman.
The verdict was announced on July 16, 2021, following a four-week trial before Honorable Robert Rolnick in Fort Bend County, Texas. The jury unanimously found in favor of Twinwood’s claims for breach of contract, fraud, tortious interference, conspiracy, and alter ego. The jury also found AAA had fraudulently concealed its breaches and tortious conduct for several years. The verdict provides for more than $21 million in damages for breach of contract, an additional $1.3 million for fraud, $3.3 million in exemplary damages, and Twinwood’s attorneys’ fees. The jury also found HeartBrand was the alter ego of AAA and responsible for AAA’s conduct.
“As we’ve maintained throughout trial, our client was clearly impacted by unfulfilled obligations related to the defendants providing DNA verified pedigree information for the registered cattle,” said McKool Smith principal Willie Wood, lead counsel for Twinwood. “The jury worked very hard to understand the facts and weigh the evidence in this case, and we are very pleased with their decision.”
The suit, filed in 2018, centered on the obligations and duties of the AAA, a cattle breed association for a rare breed of Japanese cattle known as Akaushi or Red Wagyu. Twinwood alleged that AAA advertises to members that they will receive a DNA verified pedigree on registered animals and certificates of registration verifying their animals’ lineages, which are critical to the value of Wagyu and other elite breeds of cattle. Twinwood was a member of the AAA from 2009 to 2017 and registered hundreds of animals with the association. However, when Twinwood asked the AAA to provide proof of DNA verified pedigrees on its animals in 2016, AAA refused, claiming it did not provide such information “as a matter of policy.” After repeated denials to requests for the same information, Twinwood left the AAA and filed suit. Twinwood alleges that only after it left the AAA did it learn that AAA had failed to DNA verify the lineages of more than half of Twinwood’s initial registered animals.
Along with William Wood, the McKool Smith trial team included associates Veronica Manning and Kaitlyn Dawson, Justin P. Tschoepe, partner of Yetter Coleman LLP, and Bill Boyce of Alexander Dubose Jefferson LLP.
The case is Twinwood Cattle Company, Inc. v. American Akaushi Association, Inc., HeartBrand Holdings, Inc., and Ronald Beeman, No.18-DCV-250789.
With 135 trial lawyers across offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Marshall, New York, and Washington, D.C., McKool Smith has established a reputation as one of America’s leading trial firms. The firm has secured 12 nine-figure jury verdicts and 15 eight-figure jury verdicts, obtaining more VerdictSearch and The National Law Journal “Top 100 Verdicts” than any other law firm in the country. These courtroom successes have earned McKool Smith critical acclaim and helped the firm become what The Wall Street Journal describes as “one of the biggest law firm success stories of the past decade.” McKool Smith represents clients in complex commercial litigation, intellectual property, bankruptcy, insurance recovery, and white collar defense matters.