LAS VEGAS -- In the last piece of unfinished business prior to an all-but-certain appeal, Las Vegas Sands Corp. is seeking to slash 90 percent from the trial expenses claimed by former consultant Richard Suen.
After a six-week trial that ended in mid-May, a Clark County District Court jury awarded Suen $70 million for the work he did more than a decade ago to help the company secure its hugely profitable concession in Macau. Combined with interest dating back to the filing of the case in 2004, the total judgment had reach $101.6 million on May 27, and growing at a clip of $8,400 a day.
Suen attorneys have now presented a bill of nearly $1.2 million for the out-of-pocket costs for the trial and its run-up, covering everything from translating business documents from Chinese to English, to creating the array of computer graphics to explain key concepts to the jury. This is typical for the winning side in a civil case, although the attorneys have not requested reimbursement for any of their fees.
As has happened throughout the case, Sands attorneys in court Thursday took an almost diametrically opposite position, contending that Suen should get only $168,000. After a two hour-hearing that did not finish, the matter will come up again on Sept. 25.
Nevada law lists 17 categories of legitimate expenses, with one of them a broad one that allows things considered “reasonable and necessary” but not specified otherwise. Sands attorney J. Stephen Peek contended that Suen had broadened this clause beyond recognition to include items neither reasonable nor necessary, such as $458,000 for the graphics or $133,000 for a trial technician to manage electronic evidence in court.
Although Suen’s attorneys may have decided technology was the most effective way to impress a jury, Peeks said, “That doesn’t become a necessary expense when the same kind of presentation can be made in the old-fashioned way” using easels and piles of paper instead of big-screen TVs and hard drives.
He also argued for zeroing out other expenses, from $1,100 in “telecopies” to $75,000 in travel and lodging for out-of-town attorneys during the trial to $105,000 in online legal research costs that he said were not itemized.
Further, he said, some expenses were not legitimate because they had been disallowed after the first trial in 2008 by a different judge.
But Clark County District Judge Rob Bare questioned whether the costs should be set in a larger context, notably how long the trial took and how much money was at stake.
“Both sides did things you might not do in another type of case,” Bare said, referring to the heavy use of technology and prominent attorneys from outside Nevada. “All of that taken together that clearly sent a message to the jury and to me … of doing this case essentially in a way that spared no expense.”
“What are they supposed to do?” Bare asked at another point. “If you are (Suen) and you see what Sands is bringing to the courtroom show … isn’t it fair to say that’s part of what I should consider in a cost request… .”
Suen attorney Spencer Persson did not have a chance on Thursday to speak in defense of the bill. But he said in court papers that everything in the invoice falls well within the limits of the law and had been properly documented.
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