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June 2012

Denver Litigation Team Defeats $1.2M Claim Against Manufacturer of Aerial LiDAR Systems

Attorneys from our Denver office, Byeongsook Seo, Megan Adeyemo and David Clarke, obtained a summary judgment in favor of Leica Geosystems, Inc. (Leica) in a case that was pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Leica Geosystems, Inc. v. L.W.S. Leasing, Inc. In that case, L.W.S. Leasing, Inc. (Surveyor) had asserted breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation claims against Leica for $1.2M.

Leica manufactures and sells a broad array of complex imaging and measuring systems, including aerial LiDAR systems designed to be used on airplanes and helicopters. LiDAR, which stands for "Light Detection and Ranging," incorporates laser technology to provide detailed mapping, imaging and surveying data. A dispute arose when the Surveyor purchased a LiDAR system from Leica but only partially paid for it before abandoning the aerial LiDAR business. 

The Surveyor claimed that it had ceased its efforts to establish a LiDAR business because Leica's system was defective. The Surveyor had been informed by aircraft modification shops and consultants that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not allow the Surveyor to use Leica's LiDAR system on the Surveyor's helicopter. The Surveyor returned the LiDAR system to Leica, demanded a return of all payments it had made towards the system's purchase price, and demanded Leica reimburse the Surveyor for the helicopter it purchased and the employees it hired to operate the LiDAR system within its helicopter. 

To address the Surveyor's unrelenting demands, Leica worked with Byeongsook to preemptively select the venue and initiate a breach of contract action in Colorado based on the provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The Surveyor then asserted its counterclaims seeking $1.2M based on the theory that Leica sold it a defective LiDAR system, a product that the FAA prohibited the Surveyor from using for its intended purpose – that is, for use on a helicopter.

The Denver litigation team moved for dismissal of the Surveyors' counterclaims based on an extensive record of over 25 depositions. Without the aid of a single independent expert, the team successfully guided the federal court through a classic UCC "battle of forms" and FAA's complex and ever-evolving aircraft modification approval process to show that the FAA had, in fact, not opposed the use of Leica's LiDAR system on the Surveyor's helicopter and that the advice the Surveyor received regarding the FAA's opinions was not accurate. The court agreed with Leica and issued a 28-page summary judgment ruling that found the Surveyor's claims lacked merit, which also eliminated the Surveyor's defenses to Leica's claims. Faced with the prospect of proceeding to trial where Leica sought millions in damages, the Surveyor promptly agreed to settlement terms favorable to Leica.

Megan M. Adeyemo
David M. Clarke