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Court will not rehear Eaton-Frisby trade secrets case

The Mississippi Supreme Court building in Jackson. Photo by STEPHEN McDILL / Mississippi Business JournalJACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has declined a request from Eaton Corp. to take another look at its appeal of trade secrets lawsuit against a rival, Frisby Aerospace.

Last November, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, upheld a Hinds County judge’s ruling that Eaton knew about and sanctioned secret actions that attorney Ed Peters took to influence former judge Bobby DeLaughter, the initial judge on the case.

Frisby attorneys said Peters worked behind the scenes to influence DeLaughter and give Eaton an unfair advantage in the civil case.

Eaton attorneys argued there was no “clear and convincing evidence” that Eaton was guilty of fraud and the lower court used the wrong standard in dismissing the case and issuing a $1.5 million fine.

The Supreme Court yesterday denied a motion from Eaton to rehear the case.

Eaton alleged in its lawsuit that five former Eaton engineers took aerospace information and gave it to their new employer, Frisby. Eaton and Frisby, which is now part of Triumph Group, compete for military and commercial contracts.

The Supreme Court said the $1.5 million sanction to Eaton was justified because the company committed “an abuse of the truth-seeking process” by concealing documents from Frisby.

As for the contact between Peters and DeLaugher, the court said the evidence showed “Eaton, through its officers, knew that Peters had engaged in improper ex parte communication with Judge DeLaughter on Eaton’s behalf to advance Eaton’s interests in this lawsuit.”

Peters and DeLaughter have been close for years. Peters was the Hinds County district attorney and DeLaughter was an assistant in 1994 when they helped convict Byron de la Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The case was the basis for the 1996 movie “Ghosts of Mississippi,” with Alec Baldwin playing DeLaughter. DeLaughter also wrote a book about the prosecution, “Never Too Late: A Prosecutor’s Story of Justice in the Medgar Evers Case.”

DeLaughter was convicted in 2009 for lying to the FBI about so-called ex parte communications, or discussions about cases outside of court, and sentenced to 18 months, related to another case that he presided over.

 

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