This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A state court jury verdict finally may have put an end to yearslong bitter legal disputes between a Utah therapeutic oils company and a rival founded by disaffected former top officers and distributors.
The jury at the conclusion of an 18-day trial in Provo found that doTERRA Inc. executives did not violate their employment contracts when they left Young Living Essential Oils LC of Lehi and started doTERRA Inc. of Pleasant Grove, which sells the same types of products using independent distributors, as does Young Living.
The verdict appears to conclude acrimonious legal disputes in federal and state courts between the two rivals that included cross claims that the other's products were contaminated with chemicals and allegations by Young Living in state court that former officers and distributors had breached contracts and stole trade secrets when starting doTERRA.
But by the time the state court lawsuit reached trial last month, nearly all claims had been dismissed. Going into the trial, Young Living was asking for $12 million in damages, but it reduced that to a token $1 during the proceedings for the alleged contract breaches that were the only issues left.
Kirk Jowers, doTERRA's vice president of corporate relations and an attorney, said he was surprised that Young Living went to trial on the remaining claims.
"It became clear to me and certainly by Facebook and other social media that it was being done more for marketing purposes," Jowers said.
At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, jurors were given an instruction from Judge Christine S. Johnson that said she had found that Young Living had intentionally destroyed or concealed evidence on two computers once assigned to two defendants, and said that jurors could assume the lost evidence would have been unfavorable to Young Living. That finding came more than two years before the trial.
DoTERRA was started in 2008 by top level employees who left Young Living, including doTERRA Chairman and CEO David Stirling, who had been Young Living's chief operating officer.
The 4th District Court jury in Provo ruled that Stirling, Emily Wright, Justin Harrison and Lillian Shepherd did not breach their contracts by recruiting or trying to recruit Young Living employees or distributors to go over to doTERRA in the six months after Stirling was fired and the other three left Young Living.
Young Living, in a statement on its website, said it was unsuccessful in the lawsuit "because of certain technicalities and pretrial rulings," referring to a 2014 order by Johnson that tossed out most of the lawsuit because Young Living had waited too long to file.
"The defendants chose to defend themselves not by allowing the complete story to be told but by disparaging Young Living and attempting character assassinations of our founders, Gary and Mary Young," the company said.
Jowers said that statement apparently referred to cross-examination of Gary Young during the trial and other testimony about why the defendants and others had left Young Living.
"The case was essentially set up as, were our people the four who left as well as the thousands of others who left Young Living during that time were they pushed out by the practices of the two owners and founder and CEO, or were they pulled by this opportunity," he said.
Jowers said doTERRA likely would pursue the payment of legal fees and expenses once post-trial matters were concluded.