That's Some Expensive Sand! | NBC Connecticut

That's Some Expensive Sand!



    There was a scandal over grout and it involved two local companies.

    If you installed a tile floor in the last seven years and used Laticrete grout, your floor might play a role in a business dispute that just might have led to one of the largest jury verdicts in state history.

    The case involves Dur-A-Flex, an East Hartford-based manufacturer of flooring and wall products, and Laticrete International, a tile and stone installation company in Bethany.

    For almost 10 years, the companies did business together.

    Dur-A-Flex made 40 varieties of special colored sand that gave Laticrete’s grout its color.

    It was a secret process and Laticrete signed a confidentiality agreement in which it agreed to maintain the confidentiality of Dur-A-Flex’s trade secrets and manufacturing process, according to Dur-A-Flex’s attorneys.

    But, in 2003, Laticrete stopped doing business with Dur-A-Flex and immediately began making an identical product, Dur-A-Flex’s attorneys argued.

    To determine if Laticrete had stolen Dur-A-Flex’s business secrets, the company did some research and sent someone in Maryland to buy the grout and analyze it, attorney Lawrence Rosenthal said.

    Dur-A-Flex had confirmation. The analysis showed that Laticrete used the same type of process Dur-A-Flex used to create the colored sand, Rosenthal said.

    That, Dur-A-Flex argued, was a breach of the confidentiality agreement.

    A Superior Court judge and jury agreed and have awarded $50.5 million to Dur-A-Flex. Laticrete plans to appeal.

    Laticrete officials called the verdict "grossly excessive and without foundation in either the fact or the law," according to statement issued on Tuesday.

    “We are extremely disappointed in this verdict; we think the finding that Laticrete is liable is absolutely baseless," the company said in the statement.  “We are particularly dismayed because, during its 53 years in operation, the company has always acted in accordance with the highest ethical standards.”

    The jury reached a verdict on May 18. Then, on May 27, the court entered a judgment in the amount of $50.5 million.

    “When this litigation began three and one-half years ago, we were certain that Dur-A-Flex had been significantly damaged by Laticrete’s improper and unauthorized use of its technology,” attorney Lawrence Rosenthal said. “As the case unfolded, the correctness of our position and the extent of the damages became even more evident.”