$1.3 Billion Lawsuit Withdrawn After Key Document Fabricated
The eight-year-old lawsuit Moncrief Oil International, Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, Case no. 017-229664-08 (17th Judicial District Court, Tarrant County, Texas) came to a sudden halt when cross-examination revealed mid-trial that plaintiff had fabricated a key piece of documentary evidence.
Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Gazprom (a Russian corporation) had stolen trade secrets related to a planned liquefied natural gas facility, and that Plaintiff had subsequently been pushed out of a deal regarding Russian development land. Plaintiff alleged $1.37 billion in damages.
Plaintiff had entered a document into evidence at trial that reflected a discounted cash flow analysis purportedly created in 2004. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant had improperly used confidential protected trade secret information in the document, making the document one of the few documents critical to Plaintiff’s case. Defense counsel questioned the authenticity of the document (which Plaintiff had produced late in the litigation following a motion to compel) because one image in the document had the label “Figure 11″ but the document did not otherwise contain Figures 1-10. This discrepancy led an attorney to perform an online search for the image, and subsequently discover that the image came from a research paper published in 2012 (and not available in 2004.) Defense counsel then impeached plaintiff’s former chief financial officer with the evidence on cross-examination.
Defendant moved for sanctions, but Plaintiff’s attorneys agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice, noting that they would not go forward with the case given the tarnished record. Plaintiff’s counsel stated that they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the document provided by their client.
The case raises new questions regarding whether attorneys have a duty to inquire and investigate the authenticity of documentary evidence, especially when received from their own client.