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Development of TheatreSquared Venue in Fayetteville, Arkansas

J. Cliff McKinney II served as lead real estate counsel for TheatreSquared in the development of the professional theater company’s new venue in northwest Arkansas.  The property where the project will be built is owned by the city of Fayetteville and a long-term lease to TheatreSquared was approved by the city council.  Construction on the new 50,000 square-foot facility began with a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2019.  The $34,000,000 new facility will feature the company’s first dedicated rehearsal space, staff offices, education and community space, in addition to on-site design and building workshops, eight dedicated guest artist apartments, outdoor public spaces at three levels, and an open-all-day café.  The firm represented TheatreSquared in negotiations with the City to lease the property and to obtain partial funding from the City.  The firm also advised TheatreSquared during the due diligence process as well as assisted in the negotiation of the architectural service agreements and construction agreements.  Additionally, the firm assisted TheatreSquared in the negotiation of its financing arrangements.

Jury Verdict For Plaintiff Business On Six Claims

E. B. (Chip) Chiles IV, Joseph R. Falasco, and Sarah Keith-Bolden obtained a jury verdict on six causes of action in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, in favor of a family-owned business engaged in commercial office-furniture sales.  The jury found that the former president of the firm’s client breached the restrictive covenants in her employment contract, breached her fiduciary duty to the firm’s client, and tortiously interfered with business expectancies​ of the firm’s client; that a former salesperson of the firm’s client breached the restrictive covenants in her employment contract and tortiously interfered with business expectancies of the firm’s client; and that the individual defendants’ new employer, a business owned by the former president of the firm’s client, tortiously interfered with business expectancies of the firm’s client.  The jury awarded $465,000 in favor of the firm’s client and against the individual defendants’ current employer.

Protest of Bid for State Contract Successful

Michael N. Shannon and R. Ryan Younger successfully represented a national client in a protest of an anticipation to award a contract by the state of Arkansas to manage dental benefits provided to Arkansas Medicaid recipients starting in 2018.   Four companies responded to the bid solicitation of the Department of Human Services.  The protest was sustained and two of the bidders were disqualified.  The ruling cleared the way for the client to be declared a successful bidder for a state contract worth more than $700 million.

Defense Verdict Obtained in Malicious-Prosecution Trial

E. B. (Chip) Chiles IV and Justice J. Brooks I successfully defended an owner/operator of convenience stores against a former employee’s malicious-prosecution claim in a three-day jury trial in the Circuit Court of St. Francis County, Arkansas.  Plaintiff alleged that her former employer terminated her employment as a store manager and maliciously caused criminal proceedings to be instituted against her without probable cause, resulting in damages.  In closing, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $500,000.  The jury resolved the claim in favor of the defendant, responding to a single interrogatory that plaintiff did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she sustained damages.

Dismissal Affirmed In Claim For Fees For Representing Workers’ Compensation Claimants

E. B. (Chip) Chiles IV and Sarah Keith-Bolden obtained the dismissal of an attorney’s claim that a circuit court should award him attorney’s fees out of amounts collected by a medical provider whose bills were satisfied as part of a workers’ compensation award.  The attorney, who represented two successful workers’ compensation claimants, claimed that his services allowed the medical provider to collect amounts owed by the claimants.  He sought an attorney’s fee award of one-third of the amount collected by the medical provider.  Mr. Chiles and Ms. Keith-Bolden successfully argued that Arkansas’s workers’ compensation statute vests exclusive jurisdiction over attorney’s fees awards in workers’ compensation cases with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.  The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the attorney could not establish unjust enrichment on the facts alleged.  

Summary Judgment Granted in Breach-of-Contract Matter

E. B. (Chip) Chiles IV and Thomas H. Wyatt successfully defended a bank against a breach-of-contract claim in the Circuit Court of Sharp County, Arkansas. The plaintiff, a partner in a partnership that had a deposit account with the bank, alleged that the bank did not provide him with proper notice that he had been removed as an authorized signer on the partnership’s account. The Court granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment.

Defense Verdict in Breach-of-Contract Case

Steven W. Quattlebaum, Chad W. Pekron, and R. Ryan Younger, along with attorneys from PPGMR Law, achieved a defense verdict in favor of BHP Billiton in a case claiming a breach of three oil and gas production contracts.  The plaintiffs alleged their leases should have been further developed and the failure of the defendant to drill additional wells on the leased properties violated the implied covenant of reasonable development in their leases.  A six-day jury trial in United States District Court in Little Rock, Arkansas, resulted in a defense verdict on all counts.

Dismissal Obtained in Putative Class Action

Chad W. Pekron and R. Ryan Younger obtained the dismissal of a putative class action brought by customers of a major retail chain in December 2015.  Mr. Pekron and Mr. Younger defended the retailer and two of its district managers against claims that the company’s discount program violated the Arkansas Price Discrimination Act, which imposes a penalty of $200 to $1000 for every sale in violation of the statute.  Plaintiff filed the action in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas.  Mr. Pekron and Mr. Younger successfully removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act on the ground that the district managers were fraudulently joined to the complaint and could therefore be disregarded for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.  In so doing, Mr. Pekron and Mr. Younger argued that the court could rely upon the affidavits of the district managers for purposes of establishing fraudulent joinder – an issue that is the subject of significant dispute.  Once the case remained in federal court, Mr. Pekron and Mr. Younger argued that the court should apply the “functional availability” doctrine of the Robinson-Patman Act to the Arkansas statute.  In a matter of first impression, the district court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.

Successful Verdict in Eminent Domain Action After Two-Day Jury Trial

Michael N. Shannon obtained a substantial verdict for his client in an eminent domain action after a two-day jury trial in November 2015.  Mr. Shannon represented the owner of Tanglewood Shopping Center, a shopping center in north central Little Rock anchored by a grocery store, in the action which stemmed from an Arkansas State Highway Commission project to widen Cantrell Road (Arkansas Highway 10) in front the shopping center and other businesses in that corridor.  The Highway Commission’s position was that the widening of the road did not damage the value of the remainder of the shopping center and that just compensation should include only a value for the land taken.  Mr. Shannon assisted Tanglewood in proving that the land taken by the Commission resulted in a loss of 22 parking spaces crucial to the long-term success of the shopping center’s anchor tenant and that this caused significant damage to the overall value of the shopping center after the taking.  After approximately 30 minutes of deliberations, the jury awarded Tanglewood the exact amount requested by Mr. Shannon and Tanglewood’s appraisal witness:  $972,000.00.  This was more than six (6) times the $156,150 proposed by the Commission as just compensation.

Development of American Taekwondo Association International (“ATAI”) Complex in Little Rock, Arkansas

Timothy W. Grooms and J. Cliff McKinney II represent American Taekwondo Association International (“ATAI”) in the development of a $13.5 million complex in Little Rock, Arkansas, which will serve as the national headquarters for the association.   ATAI plans to lease space and be the anchor tenant in the building developed by Martial Arts Services, Inc.   In addition to serving as general corporate and real estate counsel for ATAI, the law firm also acts as development counsel, finance counsel and co-bond counsel on the project.  Construction on the 45,300 square-foot facility began in June 2015 and is expected to be completed in August 2016.   Plans call for a three-story office tower with one-story wings coming off the main building to house a training center, a gym for employees, and a museum featuring artifacts from the history of ATAI and from the martial arts culture.   ATAI, one of the world’s largest martial arts organizations dedicated to the discipline of Taekwondo, was formed in 1969 and has based its headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, since 1977.

Defense Verdict After Four-Day Jury Trial

John E. Tull III and R. Ryan Younger, along with Michael McMullen and Jennifer Cheek of Schlee, Huber, McMullen & Krause, obtained a defense verdict for their clients, Ferrellgas, LP and Ferrellgas, Inc. (“Ferrellgas”), after a four-day jury trial in May 2015.  The case concerned a leak from a propane storage tank at an industrial plant in Malvern, Arkansas.  The leak occurred while the tank was being filled by Ferrellgas.  When the leak could not be stopped immediately, the contents of the storage tank were “burned off,” during which time the surrounding area was evacuated by emergency management personnel.  The evacuated area included a facility owned by Pactiv, LLC (“Pactiv”), which manufactures foam trays.  Pactiv allegedly ceased production for two days and claimed that it was unable to make up the production it lost.  Pactiv claimed that it suffered in excess of $5 million in economic losses and filed suit against Ferrellgas, alleging strict liability and negligence.  After 20 minutes of deliberations, the jury unanimously found in favor of Ferrellgas.

Favorable Results In Condemnation Cases

Michael N. Shannon and R. Ryan Younger have recently handled a series of condemnation cases involving the partial taking of land from commercial office properties and the redesign of roadways around the office buildings.  The just compensation owed by the condemning authority has been almost entirely dependent on whether the substantial interference with ingress to and egress from the properties is compensable under Arkansas law—a highly contested legal issue.  Mr. Shannon and Mr. Younger, however, have repeatedly obtained favorable legal rulings.  These rulings have culminated in settlements in excess of $3,500,000.00.  Mr. Shannon and Mr. Younger tried one of the condemnation cases in April 2015.  The original offer from the condemning authority was $78,575.00.  The jury heard multiple days of testimony regarding operation of the commercial real estate market, valuation of commercial office buildings, and the manner in which access impacts property value.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the property owners, determining that the condemning authority had devalued the owner’s office building through its taking and road redesign.  The jury awarded damages of $589,250.00.

Local Counsel For KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH In Connection With Big River Steel

Timothy W. Grooms served as local counsel for KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH in connection with the senior secured financing of Big River Steel LLC for the construction, start-up and operation and maintenance of a flat-rolled steel mini mill to be constructed on land located in Osceola, Mississippi County, Arkansas.  The approximately $1.5 billion project, which includes senior and mezzanine loans, equity investments, and direct loans, grants and other incentives from the State of Arkansas, Mississippi County, Arkansas, and the City of Osceola, Arkansas, will create more than 500 full time jobs, each with an average annual salary of $75,000. The Big River Steel project is expected to have a tremendous economic impact on the State of Arkansas.

Summary Judgment Affirmed by U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

On June 12, 2014, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment obtained by Steven W. Quattlebaum, E. B. (Chip) Chiles IV, and R. Ryan Younger for American Greetings Corporation in a negligence action brought by employees of an electrical utility.  The plaintiffs claimed that American Greetings was liable for severe arc-flash burns they sustained while working on a transformer owned by American Greetings.  The plaintiffs claimed damages in excess of $30,000,000.00.  American Greetings moved for summary judgment on the ground that it had no duty to warn plaintiffs of the risk of arc flash because the risk was a known and inherent danger of plaintiffs’ electrical work.  American Greetings further argued that plaintiffs could not use federal, state, and industry regulations to expand the common law to create a duty.  The Court agreed with American Greetings, holding that, as a matter of law, “American Greetings owed no duty to warn plaintiffs of the danger of an arc flash or to otherwise ensure that plaintiffs avoided that danger because it was a known danger inherent in the electrical work plaintiffs were hired to perform.”

Representation of Simmons First National Corporation in Successful Bid to Acquire Metropolitan National Bank

Patrick A. Burrow represented Simmons First National Corporation in its successful bid to acquire Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock through a bankruptcy court supervised auction in a transaction valued at $53.6 million.  Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock had 45 offices in Arkansas.  Simmons First National Corp. combined Metropolitan with its flagship bank, Simmons First National Bank, growing Simmons First National Bank by nearly 50%.  It is believed this is the first time an outside bidder prevailed over a stalking horse bidder in a bankruptcy court auction for a bank.