A $40 million jury verdict against Alfred Teo Sr. and several units of film giant Sigma Stretch Film is up in the air after the judge in the case said that the chances of him sustaining the verdict "are probably slim to none."
Tom and Ellen Huff had filed a lawsuit against Teo and the Sigma units in 2018. The suit claimed that Teo — who founded Sigma in 1978 and served as the firm's CEO for many years — and other Sigma executives conspired to financially damage the Alliance Barrier Films LLC business, leading Tom Huff to sell his 50 percent stake to Sigma in 2017 for less than market price.
Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Sigma had acquired a 50 percent stake in Alliance of Washington, Ind., in 2016. The firm was owned by Huff, who launched the business in 2013. Huff also had owned United Films Group before selling that business to Huntsman Corp. in 1996.
After a two-week trial, the jury in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., deliberated for only four hours on May 27 before returning the $40 million judgment. The jury ruled that Teo and Sigma units Flexsol Holdings LLC, Great Eastern Acquisition Corp., Sigma Extruding Corp., Alpha Industries Management Inc. and ISO Poly Films Inc. — as well as Alliance — breached their fiduciary duty to the Huffs, committed fraud and coerced the Huffs into transferring their interest in Alliance to Teo.
"We're thankful that the jury delivered justice," said Robert Cheeley, the Alpharetta, Ga.-based attorney who represented the Huffs. "This was the first time someone stood up to Al Teo's bullying and punched him in the nose."
But shortly after the verdict was read, according to the court transcript, Circuit Court Judge Jack Tuter asked Sigma attorney Gene Stearns to submit a request for a directed verdict in Sigma's favor.
"You may want to be well served to go back to the negotiating table to see if you can work out a resolution," Tuter said. "But there are so many problems with the damages in this case, that there's just no way I can lawfully sustain this verdict.
"That doesn't mean the case won't have to be retried in a couple of years," he added. "It may be that I sustain the jury's findings on liability, but set aside the verdict on damages."