PHOENIX, Ariz. (January 23, 2015) – A Maricopa County Superior Court has awarded Smartcomm, a business based in Phoenix, damages totaling $28,023,084.03 against Kent Maerki, his wife Norma Jean Coffin, and two entities owned by Mr. Maerki, IBC Admin, LLC and IBC Agency, LLC. Smartcomm sued Maerki and alleged misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential and proprietary information, as well as wrongful interference with business relations. Smartcomm alleged that the defendants wrongfully diverted Smartcomm’s business into Janus Spectrum, LLC, an entity reportedly owned by Maerki. Janus has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the trial against Janus is set for October 12, 2015.
According to the Court’s judgment, Smartcomm was awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $13,278,834, which represented Janus’ profits and Smartcomm’s expenses incurred as a result of the defendants’ actions. The court also awarded $14,000,000 in punitive damages against Maerki, finding that Maerki’s acts “were committed intentionally, wantonly, maliciously and with intent of harming Plaintiffs.” The court added, “Maerki has continued that pattern throughout this litigation by acting with seeming impunity to this court. An award of punitive damages is clearly merited.” The court characterized Maerki’s conduct “throughout the litigation” as “contumacious.” Maerki had already been found in contempt of court, twice.
The attorney for Smartcomm, Dennis Wilenchik, said that “The punitive award is significant so as to deter similar brazen conduct and a disregard for the rule of law by others.” Carole Downs, Smartcomm’s CEO, noted that Maerki has had other business enterprises in which he dealt directly with the public, and that he is being separately pursued by both the Securities & Exchange Commission in relation to Janus as well as the Arizona Corporation Commission involving his now-defunct Dental Support Plus Franchise business.
Maerki was formerly an independent marketing representative of Smartcomm. After his termination, Maerki formed Janus to compete with Smartcomm’s business of obtaining FCC licenses for its clients. Smartcomm alleged that the defendants employed Tusa Consulting Services, an engineering firm in Louisiana, to create license applications that competed with Smartcomm’s clients’ applications, and that an entity called RadioSoft, through its principal Peter Moncure, manipulated the license application process to improperly favor Janus’s clients over Smartcomm’s clients.