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Yetter Coleman’s Christopher Porter Wins Full Plaintiff Jury Trial Verdict In Business Loss and Harassment Case

Yetter Coleman represents FDNM, Inc. which owned a restaurant property located at a busy intersection in Houston, Texas. Defendants DTM Assets, LP and its president, David T. McDonald, owned a strip center directly behind FDNM and would eventually acquire property containing a car wash on the side of FDNM. For several years, the Defendant rented overflow parking from FDNM to accommodate its patrons, but over time, stopped paying rent even though its tenants continued to park in FDNM’s lot.

The Defendant apparently had designs on FDNM’s land and decided to push FDNM out by embarking upon a bizarre campaign of harassment that included hiring someone to cut down trees on FDNM’s property at night with a chainsaw, cutting down two large electrified sign poles on FDNM’s property, sneaking onto FDNM’s property at 3:00 in the morning to stencil "Fire Lane" on a curb that he paid someone to paint red, and parking a trailer full of gas cans next to a fireworks stand located on FDNM’s property. After years of problems like these, the restaurant business operating on FDNM’s property suffered and eventually closed. FDNM ultimately sold the property at a loss.

In July 2013, FDNM filed a lawsuit that made its way to trial over three years later in the 164th District Court in Harris County before Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan. Following two days of presenting evidence, which included surveillance footage capturing several of Defendant’s acts, the Defendant’s president did not show up for the final day of trial to testify. Although the Court gave Defendant’s attorney an hour to get his client to the courthouse, he never showed, leaving defense counsel to cite an unspecified medical emergency as the excuse for his client’s absence.

At the close of evidence, FDNM secured a directed verdict knocking out all of Defendants’ counterclaims. Additionally, FDNM secured an affirmative directed verdict on its own claim of trespass, which left for the jury only the questions of trespass damages, nuisance, and punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict with a total award of just over $340,000. This was substantially higher than Defendant’s last settlement offer before the verdict, and it included punitive damages, which the jury awarded unanimously as required by applicable law.

Yetter Coleman’s trial team was led by partner Christopher Porter, and associate Elizabeth Wyman, who sat second.