Tony Buzbee went before a jury again this month for his client Rafael Ortega, a Mexican grocery store chain owner, and secured a verdict of nearly $55 million in a case over breaches of fiduciary duty owed to Ortega. It was the second time Buzbee had secured a major jury award for Ortega. In a 2015 case, the Houston trial lawyer helped Ortega obtain a $30 million jury verdict.
This time, Buzbee topped that verdict, with a judgment of nearly $55 million including $2.5 million in attorney fees. The trial took three weeks and concluded with a 49-page jury charge, said Buzbee, of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston. “This was a bear of a case,” Buzbee said. He noted there were more than 400,000 documents in discovery and three scheduled depositions of his client. The litigation in the 215th District Court in Houston pitted Ortega against Juan Carlos Ruvalcaba, a distant relative, who previously worked for Ortega and now also operates grocery stores. At the trial, there were claims and counterclaims of breach of fiduciary duty. Both sides denied the allegations and the jury decided the case in favor of Ortega. Buzbee lined up witnesses so Ruvalcaba and Ortega, in that order, testified at the end of the plaintiff’s presentation of the case. He said he intentionally set up that sequence for the jury because he knew Ortega, in contrast to his distant relative and onetime employee, would win them over, Buzbee said. “He didn’t build his business enterprise by not being a personable guy,” Buzbee said about Ortega.
Rogelio Jeronimo Valdez, a partner in Dallas’ Valdez/Washington who represents Ruvalcaba, did not return a call for this story.
–Miriam Rozen, Texas Lawyer