Paul Batista, the attorney representing Empire Energy Corporation International, an energy resources company, announced that today the New York State judge overseeing the litigation between Empire and Smart Win International Limited, a Hong Kong firm, has set April 13, 2015, as the trial date.
The underlying lawsuit stems from a 2006 agreement between Empire and Smart Win under which Smart Win committed itself to providing as much as AUD $5 million to finance drilling for oil and other energy resources at locations in Tasmania where Empire held licenses from the government to drill. Smart Win, which refused to advance the full AUD $5 million, has claimed that Empire should return approximately AUD $3.9 million.
In its claims against Smart Win, Empire has asserted that Smart Win breached the 2006 contract by falling to advance the full AUD $5 million financing and that Smart Win's conduct caused the collapse of the drilling venture and inflicted on Empire in excess of AUD $1 billion in damages.
According to Mr. Batista, Empire and its Chief Executive Officer, Malcolm Bendall, have agreed to proceed to trial without a jury. Mr. Batista said, "Justice Jeffrey K. Oing, a highly respected judge, has consistently demonstrated a complete grasp of the legal and factual issues raised by this case. The judge recently denied a motion for summary judgment brought by Smart Win, and in the course of denying the motion by Smart Win commented, among other things, that the trier of fact, whether the judge or a jury, would have to evaluate the propriety of Smart Win's 'turning off the spigot' before providing the full financing amount of AUD $5 million."
According to Mr. Batista, Empire's decision to try the case before Justice Oing was also based on the judge's recent ruling, on October, 30, 2014, that Empire was entitled to seek to prove that Smart Win breached the 2006 agreement and that Smart Win's breach led to significant losses to Empire far in excess of any claims that Smart Win might have against Empire. Mr. Batista also said, "In deciding to proceed with a trial before Justice Oing only, as Smart Win itself had requested, Empire was also motivated by the fact that a trial with a jury could last twice as long as a trial before Justice Oing. No one can ever predict the outcome of a trial, whether it is held before a judge only or a judge presiding over a jury, but Empire has full confidence in its position that it did not breach the contract, that Empire owes nothing to Smart Win, and that, in fact, Smart Win's misconduct caused many millions of dollars in damages to Empire. We intend to do our best to prove this to Justice Oing at trial."
The selection of April 13 as the firm trial date was based in part on Justice Oing's own established schedule in other cases and the fact that Smart Win intends to present several Chinese witnesses who would be engaged in late February through March in events surrounding the Chinese New Year and routine regulatory requirements that the witnesses and the companies that employ them would have to meet.
Chairman Tim Baldwin said "The company considers this to be positive for Empire".