Hicks Thomas Secures Important Appellate Win for Houston Engineering Firm

HOUSTON – Houston-based Pinnacle Engineering and Pinnacle Project Services recently won an important ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeals of Texas against a former company shareholder who was fired for allegedly falsifying his background.

Pinnacle Engineering, Pinnacle Project Services and company shareholders Jeffrey Liggett and Terence Townend are represented by lead trial counsel Stewart Hoffer and appellate specialist J. Stephen Barrick from the Houston office of Hicks Thomas LLP.

Pinnacle terminated the employment of former shareholder Raymond Houde in 2001, alleging he misrepresented his educational background when he joined the companies. Mr. Houde then filed a countersuit against the companies and shareholders, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy.

During the course of his lawsuit, Mr. Houde filed several motions to compel the production of forensic images of computer and network server hard drives. After the trial court granted the request and directed Pinnacle to turn over the hard drives, the Hicks Thomas team appealed the ruling by filing a writ of mandamus seeking to vacate the trial court order.

A panel of three Justices from the 1st District Court of Appeals in Houston found that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering access to Pinnacle’s computers and network server hard drives. In the opinion, the appeals court justices found that a trial court could not compel broad access to a company’s computer system on behalf of a lawsuit opponent without proper procedural protections and concrete evidence that the company’s prior production was incomplete.

The opinion in In re Pinnacle Engineering Inc., et al., No. 01-12-01105-CV, was handed down March 12, 2013, by 1st Court of Appeals Justices Terry Jennings, Jane Bland and Michael C. Massengale. The underlying case is Houde v. Pinnacle Engineering Inc., No. 2011-07373, in the 55th District Court in Harris County.