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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Litigator of the Week: Big Win Against Big - Texas Lawyer - 8/12/2013 - Miriam Rozen
Sawnie McEntire has practiced law for more than 30 years, trying complex litigation in federal and state courts throughout Texas and nationwide. But the partner in the Dallas office of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons got his first case this summer against Rusty Hardin. The outcome: McEntire won.

"Rusty is a very fine lawyer. But I've been doing this a long time myself," says McEntire in a decidedly understated manner.

On Aug. 2, 270th District Judge Brent Gamble in Houston signed a final take-nothing judgment in favor of McEntire's clients, David L. Cook and Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, Inc.

In an amended petition filed Feb. 28, 2013, a now-closed eatery in Houston, and a company they had created to hold ownership in their real estate property, alleged that Cook, who worked for Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, had entered into an exclusive sales contract with them to sell the land on which their long-operating establishment had been located. But the ownership couple, who eventually sold the property for more than $2 million through another real estate agent, alleges in the petition that Cook, as vice-principal and part of a management team of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, tortiously interfered with a contract, committed fraud, violated the Texas Deceptive Trade and Practices Act, acted negligently and breached contract and fiduciary duties, among other causes of action.

In an amended answer filed on Feb. 15, the defendants denied the allegations and asserted among other affirmative defenses that the claims were barred because of "the doctrine of abandoned opportunity."

On June 11 , a trial began and a jury started deliberating-doing so for less than a day-on June 26. In its verdict, the panel ruled that Cushman & Wakefield of Texas did not "fail to enlist its best effort to secure a purchaser for the property" and Cushman & Wakefield and Cook complied with their fiduciary duties.

Based on that jury verdict, Gamble issued his take-nothing judgment this month.

McEntire says the plaintiffs abandoned several claims before the jury deliberated and he believes his calling of a Cushman & Wakefield representative as an adverse witness helped his clients.

"It was important for us to demonstrate that our client communicated the important information to the seller," the defense lawyer says since the plaintiffs had alleged otherwise.

Hardin, who earned national headlines for successfully defending in 2012 all but convicted baseball player Roger Clemens of lying to Congress when he said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs, and in 2011 persuading the U.S. Supreme Court to let heirs of oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II shield Marshall's estate from the estate of reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith, did not return a call for this story.

McEntire has nothing but kind words about his opposing counsel. "I have tremendous respect for Rusty Hardin."

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