The Long and Winding Road

Bob Gegios’s six-year battle to try his case

Published in 2015 Wisconsin Super Lawyers — December 2015

“One day I’ll be retired, and I’ll have to think back with pleasant memories about this one. But we’re not quite there yet.”

Bob Gegios is talking about Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc.

In 2006, Gegios began representing four Wisconsin businesses, which alleged that they paid an estimated $100 million more for natural gas in 2001 than they did in 2000. Claiming that the spike was due to illegal manipulation of prices, the businesses sued.

Nearly a decade later, Gegios is still at it.

“You wouldn’t want to know how many feet of documentation this file has produced,” he says. His estimate: a 50-yard field goal would miss the mark.

Initially, when the business litigation lawyer at Kohner, Mann & Kailas took on the cases, they were pending at the state court level in Madison. Then the Wisconsin cases were consolidated with similar cases, and tried in Nevada federal court.

“We participated for a number of years in this multidistrict litigation,” says Gegios.

A motion on preemption was filed against the Kansas case, and Judge Philip M. Pro denied the motion. But in November 2009, he reconsidered.

“He found that there should be a different legal analysis undertaken for preemption,” Gegios says. “Then [he] applied that analysis to all the pending cases—including the Wisconsin cases.”

After several years of going through several courts, in April 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court finally weighed in.

“What the 9th Circuit decided, and the Supreme Court agreed with different reasoning, was that the Natural Gas Act … codified the setting where the individual states could regulate retail purchases of natural gas and—I’m generalizing here—the federal government regulated wholesale purchases,” Gegios says. “Our case was a retail matter, and therefore there could be no preemption.”

Meaning the businesses could sue after all.

“Really, it’s been six years of getting this thing back on track,” Gegios says.

In September, litigation continued at Las Vegas federal court, albeit with a new judge.

Gegios remains confident in his clients’ cases. “We’re very resilient, perseverant, stubborn,” he says.

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