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Court Upholds $203.8M Verdict for S.C. Johnson

(CN) - A Wisconsin appeals court upheld a $203.8 million verdict for S.C. Johnson & Son from a kickback scheme between its employees and transportation companies.

S.C. Johnson discovered that some of its employees were taking kickbacks from transportation companies and submitting inflated invoices.

The company sued employees Milton Morris and Katherine Scheller and transportation company owners Thomas Burke and Thomas Russell for the alleged fraud perpetrated over a decade of bribes and kickbacks.

S.C. Johnson triumphed after a four-week trial. The trial judge reduced the $147 million jury verdict to $101.9 million, which was then doubled under the Wisconsin Organized Crime Control Act (WOCCA).

On appeal, the 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's refusal to let Burke and Russell testify after they pleaded the Fifth throughout discovery.

"Invoking the privilege during discovery only to later withdraw the privilege may give the invoking party a decided advantage in that he or she can delay having to answer questions until after having had the opportunity to watch the adverse party's case develop," Judge Brown wrote.

The court also upheld the amount of the verdict, saying it had been properly doubled under WOCCA.

Russell and Burke argued that not all of the case fell under WOCCA, which, like the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, allows for the doubling of damages as an economic remedy to the victims.

"The damages incurred as a result of this conspiracy all fall under WOCCA ... therefore, all the damages from the conspiracy were properly doubled," Brown wrote.

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