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June 18, 2024

Legal News

June 18, 2024

How Privileged Documents Influenced a $101 Million Verdict Against Walmart

by Jaleel Menifee

In a stunning legal turn, a former Walmart supplier, London Luxury, secured a $101 million verdict from an Arkansas federal jury. The verdict was the result of a breach of contract claim stemming from Walmart's cancellation of a deal to purchase 72 million boxes of nitrile gloves during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

London Luxury claimed that Walmart backed out of the agreement not due to any failure on their part but because Walmart's secondary deal—to resell the gloves to a medical equipment supplier at a substantial markup—fell through. The jurors were convinced by evidence that starkly contradicted the testimony of Walmart's own witnesses, brought forward by London Luxury's legal team from Holwell Shuster & Goldberg.

One of the pivotal moments in the case came when Holwell Shuster successfully argued for the disclosure of Walmart’s privileged documents. Initially, Walmart planned to have an in-house lawyer testify about the agreement's validity, claiming the deal was unauthorized. However, this opened the door for the court to demand the release of all related privileged documents up to the commencement of litigation. This included internal communications that indicated Walmart employees had indeed discussed and validated the enforceability of the agreement.

The disclosed documents proved invaluable at trial. For instance, during cross-examination, London Luxury's attorneys were able to use these documents to discredit a Walmart witness who had denied the company’s motive for terminating the deal with London Luxury. The witness had claimed it was not due to the collapse of the secondary resale deal, yet emails between Walmart employees suggested otherwise.

The significance of these documents was further underscored in closing arguments. The contrast between the actual documents and the testimony provided by Walmart’s representatives painted a picture of a company trying to shift blame and avoid responsibility. This not only influenced the jury's decision in favor of London Luxury but also underscored the importance of transparency and the potential consequences of internal miscommunications or misrepresentations.

Moreover, Walmart faced a setback on its counterclaim where it alleged that London Luxury’s CEO conspired with a Walmart employee to start a competing business. Although the jury awarded Walmart $350,000 in damages for this claim, the sum was minimal compared to the $101 million verdict against it.

This case serves as a cautionary tale for corporations about the risks associated with internal documents and communications, especially those considered privileged. It illustrates how such documents, once brought to light, can drastically shift the outcome of a case. Legal professionals and corporations alike should note the importance of document management and the potential implications of internal communications in litigation contexts.

As London Luxury plans to revive its operations, this case not only marks a significant financial win for them but also a notable example of legal strategy and the impact of judicial decisions on document disclosure in complex corporate litigation.

The attorneys at Outside Legal Counsel LLP aim is to ensure that all decisions are made with an eye towards avoiding liability. Please reach out to us for more information about our services and how we can help you navigate this rapidly changing landscape

This is not legal advice and is attorney advertising.

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