A downtown law firm and the owner of the State Fair of Virginia want a $14 million lawsuit filed against them tossed out – and they threw a few legal zingers in their court filings to make their point.
Williams Mullen and Virginia Farm Bureau Federation filed their responses last month to a case from Mini-USA, a New Kent County-based company that claims it was wrongfully thwarted in its attempt to buy the State Fair in 2012.
Mini-USA’s suit, first filed in November in Richmond Circuit Court, claims that Virginia Farm Bureau, with the help of Williams Mullen, carried out a scheme to grab control of the fair for itself.
That was after Mini-USA had previously sought Farm Bureau as an investor in its plan to buy the fair. Farm Bureau eventually acquired full control of the fair and its properties in Caroline County.
The case alleges conspiracy, violations of state trade secret laws and legal malpractice, among other counts.
Farm Bureau and Williams Mullen argue in their Dec. 23 responses that the case doesn’t hold water on numerous fronts and should be dismissed.
They both base part of their arguments for dismissal on the concept of “business expectancy” – that is, Mini-USA had no reason to assume an economic benefit would result from a deal that was no more than a proposed transaction.
“Lacking any allegations addressed to the specific terms of the supposed deal between Mini-USA and Farm Bureau, plaintiff’s claims rise no higher than rank speculation,” Williams Mullen said in its response.
Farm Bureau also argues that its decision not to invest with Mini-USA and in turn to acquire the fair on its own was not improper, but just business.
“At most, (Mini-USA’s) allegations show acts of commercial ‘hard ball’ that are not malicious or wanton,” the suit reads.
In its claim of conspiracy, Mini-USA points to the fact that it was represented by Williams Mullen during its attempt to buy the fair, while Farm Bureau was also a major client of the law firm.
Both defendants argue that claim of conspiracy is bunk because Williams Mullen was acting as an agent on behalf of Farm Bureau. A conspiracy, they argue, requires two parties working in collaboration.
As to the claim of legal malpractice against Williams Mullen, the firm argues that Mini-USA’s allegation is based on a violation of certain state professional conduct rules that are not designed to be the base of civil liability.
Farm Bureau is represented by Christian & Barton attorneys Henry Willett III and Harrison Gates. Willett declined to comment.
Williams Mullen is represented by one of its own attorneys, Bill Bayliss. He did not return a call by Thursday evening.
Mini-USA is run by local concert promoter Gratton Stephens. The company is represented in the case by attorneys Harris Butler, Rebecca Royals and Zev Antell of Richmond law firm Butler Royals. Butler did not return a call for comment.