Nashville at law: AmEx wins judgment against Tangredis

Also: No Cialis for VU, Metro gets $333,000 legal bill, and more... [From our print edition featured in Monday's City Paper]

Sixteen months after American Express sued a father-and-son pair of Nashville restaurateurs for allegedly pulling off a $1.14 million credit-card fraud, a judge has handed the company a legal victory.

“Considering that over one million dollars is at issue, the money is currently unaccounted for, and defendants are proceeding with little attention to the orderly workings of this court,” Senior Judge John T. Nixon wrote in an April 8 ruling, American Express Travel Related Services Co. deserved a judgment against Michael D. Tangredi, his son Michael G. Tangredi and Minc Concepts, a nonexistent nightclub in whose name the younger Tangredi applied for AmEx merchant credentials.

Nixon ordered a magistrate judge to determine the amount of damages to be awarded.

The Tangredis ran three Italian-themed bistros in Nashville until all closed around the time the lawsuit was filed in November 2008. The card company claimed the defendants had used an employee’s identity to open a cardholder account that they would control. Then, it said, they schemed to set up a merchant account for the fictitious Minc Concepts and ran bogus charges from that card through it.

The men denied any wrongdoing in filings made with the court last September, but subsequent court orders sent to them by Certified Mail were repeatedly returned as undeliverable.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell ruled that the U.S. Secret Service had established “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the father and son bought a 2003 Maserati Coupe with money obtained through credit-card fraud against AmEx. The court upheld the government’s seizure of the sports car.

No criminal charges have been brought in connection with the alleged fraud against AmEx. In a separate matter, Michael G. Tangredi is set to go on trial July 26 in Davidson County Criminal Court on charges of sales tax evasion.

U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals

Vanderbilt University v. Icos Corp. Opinion issued April 7. A three-judge panel turns aside VU’s claim that it deserves a share of the more than $6 billion in sales generated by erectile dysfunction drug Cialis.

In July 2005, the university sued Icos, now a unit of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., in Delaware’s District Court. The lawsuit asserted Vanderbilt faculty members Jackie D. Corbin, Sharron H. Francis and Sekhar Raja Konjeti should rightfully share in the patents for tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis.

At the district level, VU was unable to convince a judge that the French researcher had knowingly made use of information that belonged to Corbin, Francis and Konjeti. The appellate judges found that the trial court had “applied the wrong standard for joint inventorship,” but a majority found that the decision in favor of Icos was correct anyway.

U.S. District Court

Vicky S. Crawford v. Metro Nashville Public Schools. Order issued April 9. Judge Todd Campbell awards some $453,000 in legal fees to attorneys who represented former schools employee Crawford in a wrongful-termination lawsuit that resulted in a $1.56 million jury verdict in her favor last January.

Campbell also reduced the damages awarded to Crawford by $120,000, ruling that the jury gave her more than the law allowed. The net increase in cost to the city comes to about $333,000, with further amounts for interest and expenses yet to be determined.

United States of America v. 600 44-pound poly mesh bags of rice et al., in re Won Feng Trading Inc. Notice of compliance filed April 7. The U.S. Attorney’s office says Won Feng Trading has cleaned up its act.

The Nashville Asian-foods restaurant supplier entered into a consent decree in January, three weeks after federal agents raided its Eugenia Avenue warehouse and impounded a large amount of vermin-infested goods. It agreed to strict monitoring by the Food and Drug Administration and posted a performance bond to back up its promise of improved sanitation. Now the bond has been returned to the company.

Plaintiff’s attorney: Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Teufel Phillips. Defendant’s attorney: Mark B. Reagan of Robinson, Reagan & Young P.C.