Just when you thought this whole Samsung vs. Apple case couldn't get any weirder, we're now hearing that Vel Hogan, the jury foreman on the case who helped guide the jurors on patent law and owns some patents himself, was once sued into bankruptcy by Seagate. Samsung, as it turns out, just happens to be the largest single investor in Seagate, owning 9.6 percent of the hard drive company's stock. While it doesn't guarantee that a juror's judgment could be clouded, it is the kind of information one would expect to be volunteered to a courtroom. Mr. Hogan, however, did not disclose this information.
According to official transcripts of the voir dire (a fancy phrase for "discussing potential juror biases" among other things), the jurors were all asked if "you or a family member or someone very close to you [has] ever been involved in a lawsuit, either as a plaintiff, a defendant, or as a witness?" Here is Mr. Hogan's response in full (PDF):
Mr. Hogan: In 2008, after my company went belly up, the programmer that worked for me filed a lawsuit against me and ultimately, across the next few months, it was dismissed and in such a fashion that neither one of us could sue the other one for that matter.
The Court: What was his -- what was the employee's claim?
Mr. Hogan: It was a dispute over the software that we had developed, whether it belonged to the company or to him, and I had documents that showed it belonged to the company. Ultimately, as I said, it would -- we settled out of court and it was dismissed.
The Court: All right. Anything about that experience that would affect your ability to be fair and impartial to both sides in this case?
Mr. Hogan: I don't believe so.
The Court: Okay. Was there any dispute -- was there any dispute as to who had created and invented the technology, or was it largely who had ownership of it?
Mr. Hogan: It was strictly who had ownership of it, and ultimately it was established that the company did have ownership of it, although -- and I still do -- although the company is not in business any longer.
The Court: I see. But was there a sort of dispute as to who had created or invented the technology as part of that ownership question?
Mr. Hogan: Yes, there was.
The Court: Um-hum.
Mr. Hogan: But like I said, we settled that -- because of documentation I had, we were able to settle it out of court and then we went back to court one last time for the dismissal paperwork.
The Court: Okay. All right. Thank you.
As you can see, there was no mention of the case involving Seagate at all. The case involving his employee was filed in 2008, yet the case against Seagate occurred in 1993. As the story goes, in the 80s, Hogan was hired by Seagate and moved from Colorado to California, at which time his new employer agreed to split the cost of paying off his mortgage. However, when Hogan was laid off in 1993, Seagate claimed that he owed the company the money for his mortgage. The two went to court and ultimately, Hogan had to file for bankruptcy in order to keep his home.
Now, a few things to point out: for starters, Samsung did not own any part of Seagate at the time of the case against Hogan. In fact, Samsung didn't begin its deal with Seagate until April of 2011, and it wasn't finalized until December of the same year. One might even be able to make the argument that Hogan was unaware of the connections between his former employer and the defendant.
However, what is clear is that there is potential here to doubt Hogan's judgment in a court of law. Had both parties known prior to the trial of Hogan's previous lawsuit, he might not have been allowed to be on the jury. As we know, he was instrumental in leading the jury, both as the foreman as a patent owner himself. Perhaps this trial may have gone very differently.
If that was the end of the story, though, it would still be scandalous enough. However, the question that is necessarily raised here is: how did Samsung find out about this old trial? Well, as it turns out, Michael F. Grady, the attorney who initially filed the lawsuit against Hogan on Seagate's behalf back in 1993 is now married to Diane M. Doolittle, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, the law firm that represented Samsung in the trial.
The plot thickens.
Apple, naturally, wants to know just when Samsung came across this little revelation. With such a close in-house connection between the lawyers in the 1993 case and the current one against Apple, it's not difficult to imagine that Samsung's lawyers may have sat on this information, in case they lost to Apple, in an attempt to get the verdict thrown out if they didn't like how the trial went down. Or, at the very least, that's what Apple will try to prove.
This is, in legal terms, playing hardball.
Though, if the issue is proving juror misconduct, Hogan may give Samsung an easy go of it. For starters, in an interview with Bloomberg, Hogan stated that the question about past cases had a ten-year limit on it, and that he was not legally required to present any information farther back than that. However, we can clearly see from the transcript above that this was not true. Furthermore, in a piece on Reuters (section B), Hogan stated that he initially brought legal action against Seagate, when in fact, it was the other way around. Seagate sued Hogan. Of course, none of these blog posts and public statements are admissible in court, but if Hogan has made mistakes like these off the record, it may be possible he's made more on the record.
Samsung could easily have the verdict for this case thrown out if it can prove that the jury foreman had a personal bias against Samsung that he deliberately failed to disclose while under oath. Of course, that isn't quite an open and shut case just yet, and obviously Apple will have some questions for how Samsung came to find out about this and why it wasn't brought up sooner. No matter what happens though, the drama continues to unfold at popcorn-eating levels.