Colorado Court of Appeals Uphold $4.8 Million Judgment in The Ortho Agency Case

DENVER (April 17, 2023) – It took nearly a year and a half of legal wrangling at the appellate level, but the Colorado Court of Appeals recently upheld the jury’s verdict and judgment in the 2021 trial of locally-owned sole business proprietor vs. large international company, even awarding the plaintiffs additional legal fees and costs associated with having to defend against the appeal.

The small business, The Ortho Agency owned by Michael Shatzer, took on the multi-billion-dollar company Exactech U.S., Inc. and Giarratano Enterprises, among defendants, in Denver District Court.  They won one of Colorado’s top 10 jury verdicts of 2021, when a jury awarded $4 million to the plaintiffs, represented at trial by Sherman & Howard’s Peter Koclanes and Nick DeWeese. The court subsequently awarded an additional $800,000 in attorney’s fees and costs during trial.  Jessica Arett joined the legal team for the appeal.

“I’m extremely pleased with the outcome, the professionalism and preparation of the team, and advice I received throughout this very complicated process,” Shatzer said.

Shatzer, a local small business owner, was the sole proprietor of The Ortho Agency, a medical device distributorship that sold medical devices for defendant Exactech U.S. Inc. and other manufacturers to hospitals, surgeons, and surgery centers in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and portions of South Dakota and Nebraska.

The jury found that Exactech and Chad Giarratano, who was a sales representative and Ortho Agency’s director of sales, engaged in a secret scheme to eliminate Shatzer and Ortho Agency as the exclusive distributor for Exactech, poach their sales personnel, misappropriate their trade secrets, and install Giarratano and his business as the new distributor, among other wrongful conduct.

“A takeaway from this case is the importance for businesses, like Ortho Agency, to evaluate and take steps to put in place strong agreements and operational safeguards for the protection of their assets, including their workforce, intellectual property, and trade secrets, before any dispute even arises,” Koclanes said.

“Mr. Shatzer is fortunate he had all the right contracts and protections in place prior to this incident,” DeWeese said.

Koclanes noted that these cases are difficult to win and, with DeWeese, created a list of considerations for business owners to help them protect their assets. That list can be found here.

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