SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has ruled that essential oils company Young Living deliberately misled a courtroom in one chapter of a yearslong court battle against former employees who started rival business Doterra.
Fourth District Judge Christine Johnson on Monday ordered Young Living to cover $1.8 million in attorney costs Doterra took on to fight a trade-secret claim that the judge said was brought in bad faith. It is one of several allegations, including breach of contract, in the 2012 civil suit that a jury tossed last year. An appeal is pending.
Johnson wrote that the $2.1 million in reimbursement Doterra sought is reasonable because the case was complex and many of the allegations interwoven, citing "a knowing falsification of the evidence" by Young Living. Still, she granted a 15 percent discount, acknowledging that no attorney is efficient 100 percent of the time and that some of the billed hours fell outside the scope of the one troublesome claim.
Young Living respects the judicial process, it said in a statement, but maintains the complete story hasn't been told. The company said the decision didn't address merits of its claims, and instead focused on why it waited to bring one of them.
Young Living argued in court that in 2012, it found a Doterra business plan that a Young Living officer had saved on his laptop before he left the company in 2007 and started Doterra. Its attorneys said a statute of limitations hadn't expired because the discovery was recent.
But the judge said a forensic review of the device showed Young Living knew of the plan in 2009 and then tampered with the computer. Only the machine's hard drive was left by the time a forensic investigator received it, Johnson noted, and it had made a stop at Young Living's Ecuador farm along the way.11 comments on this story
"The story of how this occurred is full of gaps and eyebrow-raising inconsistencies," the judge wrote, continuing that Young Living's claim on the timeline was calculated and "not just a casual misstatement. It is a knowing falsification of the evidence."
Young Living has fought the fees, saying the company truly believed the claim when it sued and that Doterra paid excessive rates.
Doterra General Counsel Mark Wolfert said he was pleased with the decision and hoped "all involved parties could concentrate on a more harmonious and productive future."