PacifiCorp loses legal dispute over gas-fired plant project

Expect an appeal from a May 21 jury verdict in Utah that went against PacifiCorp in a dispute with USA Power LLC over whether PacifiCorp improperly hijacked USA Power’s plans for a gas-fired power plant in Utah.

PacifiCorp noted in a May 25 Form 8-K filing that the verdict was in the case of USA Power, LLC et al. vs. PacifiCorp et al., which had been filed in the Third District Court of Salt Lake County, Utah. The ruling was in favor of USA Power LLC, USA Power Partners LLC and Spring Canyon Energy LLC on their claims that PacifiCorp breached a confidentiality agreement and willfully misappropriated their trade secrets in regard to their 2002 and 2003 proposals to build a natural gas plant in Juab County.

The jury awarded the companies breach of contract damages of $18m and unjust enrichment damages of $113m. On May 24, the three companies filed a motion seeking exemplary damages. Under the Utah Uniform Trade Secrets law, the judge may award exemplary damages in an additional amount not to exceed twice the original award. The suit was originally filed in 2005, prior to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.‘s ownership of PacifiCorp.

In October 2007, the Third District Court had granted PacifiCorp’s motion for summary judgment on all counts and dismissed the plaintiff claims in their entirety. In February 2008, the three plaintiff companies filed a petition requesting consideration by the Utah Supreme Court on two of their five claims. In May 2010, the Utah Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case back to the Third District Court for further consideration.

“PacifiCorp strongly disagrees with the verdict and is aggressively pursuing all options for appeal,” said the May 25 Form 8-K filing.

PacifiCorp discussed the case in its Feb. 27 annual Form 10-K report: “In October 2005, PacifiCorp was added as a defendant to a lawsuit originally filed in February 2005 in the Third District Court for Salt Lake County, Utah (‘Third District Court’) by USA Power, LLC and its affiliated companies, USA Power Partners, LLC and Spring Canyon Energy, LLC (collectively, ‘USA Power’), against Utah attorney Jody L. Williams and the law firm Holme, Roberts & Owen, LLP, who represent PacifiCorp on various matters from time to time. USA Power was the developer of a planned generation project in Mona, Utah called Spring Canyon, which PacifiCorp, as part of its resource procurement process, at one time considered as an alternative to the Currant Creek generating facility. USA Power’s complaint alleged that PacifiCorp misappropriated confidential proprietary information in violation of Utah’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act and accused PacifiCorp of breach of contract and related claims. USA Power seeks $250 million in damages, statutory doubling of damages for its trade secrets violation claim, punitive damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. The statutory doubling of damages only applies to the plaintiffs’ trade secret claim and could increase the total damages sought to $500 million.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.