Appellate Court Unanimously Denies O&G Company’s Bid to Overturn $12.4 Million Judgment for Gibbs & Bruns Private Client

On September 13, 2021, the 151st District Court issued a final judgment in favor of Gibbs & Bruns client David Dunwoody, Jr. against EnVen Energy Corporation. Final judgment was entered following a three-week trial and jury verdict rendered on July 12, 2021. 

Mr. Dunwoody is the former co-founder and President of EnVen Energy Corp. (“EnVen” or the “Company”).  Gibbs & Bruns represented Dunwoody in litigation filed against the Company after EnVen refused to recognize Mr. Dunwoody’s resignation for Good Reason under his Employment Agreement.  In 2013, Mr. Dunwoody co-founded EnVen, an oil and gas exploration and production company focused on the Gulf of Mexico.  From 2013 through 2018, Mr. Dunwoody successfully hired and managed the engineering team at EnVen and led multiple transformative corporate transactions that twice doubled EnVen’s oil and gas reserves and grew annual revenue to over $623 million.  But starting in 2016, the CEO began a campaign against Mr. Dunwoody to divest him of his equity compensation at the Company, while consistently disparaging Mr. Dunwoody in front of board members and other executives.  In May 2019, Mr. Dunwoody exercised his contractual right to resign for Good Reason.  The Company refused to honor his resignation, depriving Mr. Dunwoody of his right to contractual severance benefits.

Shortly after suit was filed, EnVen retaliated by sending Mr. Dunwoody a repurchase notice, indicating it was confiscating for the nominal sum of $10.00 all of Mr. Dunwoody’s Class B units in the Company.  In August 2019, Mr. Dunwoody obtained a Temporary Restraining Order against the repurchase.

The case had been set for trial in January 2021, but days before trial was to start, EnVen filed a mandamus appeal of the trial court’s denial of its motion for continuance.  After emergency briefing, the 14th Court of Appeals denied EnVen’s mandamus.  EnVen then filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court which, after briefing, was also denied.

The case was tried starting on June 23, 2021.  After a three-week trial, the jury delivered its verdict that Mr. Dunwoody had multiple, independent grounds for Good Reason under his employment agreement and found that EnVen had breached and repudiated the agreement.  The jury awarded Mr. Dunwoody his full contractual damages.  On September 13, 2021, the Honorable Mike Engelhart entered final judgment in the matter, awarding our client over $12 million in actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and interest.  EnVen appealed the case.

On April 18, 2023, a three-judge panel from the Fourteenth Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict and unanimously “overruled all of the issues raised by EnVen in this appeal.”  In its 29-page opinion, the Court of Appeals explained that the summary judgment and directed verdict rulings in Mr. Dunwoody’s favor, his damages model, and his legal and factual arguments before and during trial gave rise to no error.  Accordingly, it affirmed the trial court’s judgment in full.   

COA Opinion – Full Opinion Text
Law 360 Appeals Court Backs Energy Co. Ex-Exec’s Severance Win

Talos's slashing of Mr. Dunwoody's equity participation and its disparagement forced him to resign with good reason from the company he co-founded and loved, and every basis on which Talos fought that ruling has now been rightly struck down,
– Denise Lambert Drake