A three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $32 million judgement against NCSoft in a contract dispute with Ultima
creator Richard Garriott that dates back to his departure from the company in 2008.
Garriott filed suit against NCSoft in 2009
, saying he had been forced out of the company following a 2008 space flight, contrary to NCSoft's earlier public statements
that he had left voluntarily.
The distinction had significant implications for the flexibility of Garriott's stock options in the company, which were only valid for 90 days if he left of his own accord, but would last until June 2011 if NCSoft terminated him.
A federal jury awarded Garriott $28 million in lost profits
last July after a three-and-a-half day trial followed by three hours of deliberation. The $32 million appellate court ruling adds interest and attorney's fees accrued during the trial period.
"NCSoft schemed to avoid its obligations to [Garriott] at the trial court and on appeal, and neither the jury nor the 5th Circuit bought any of it," said Stephen E. Fox, Garriott's lead counsel in the suit. "Contracts have consequences, and as the Court of Appeals explained, the trial court is not a trial run."
An NCSoft spokesperson said the company was "disappointed" with the decision.
NCSoft acquired Garriott's Destination Games in 2001 and released his much-hyped MMO Tabula Rasa
in 2007. That game shut down in early 2009
after disappointing performance that failed to meet NCSoft's financial targets.
The designer's newest venture, social gaming outfit Portalarium, recently secured $3.6 million in funding
ahead of the launch of its next game, Ultimate Collector