Law Firm Leaders
Winning a $5.9 million jury verdict in a trial convened at the height of a global pandemic is no small feat.
Add the challenge of replacing a deceased colleague as counsel in multiyear complex litigation, and 2020 — a year most of us would like to forget — was a year to remember for Shannon Johnson, a shareholder with Kansas City-based Seigfreid Bingham.
Johnson joined co-counsel Greg Whiston and Curry Sexton on the plaintiff’s team of S&H Farm Supply Inc. v. Bad Boy Inc. for trial in late September following the unexpected death of lead counsel David Shay a few months earlier.
The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleged violations of a state law that protects retailers of outdoor power equipment by requiring manufacturers to show good cause to terminate, cancel or fail to renew a contract.
S&H, which has four locations in southern Missouri, had been an authorized dealer of zero-turn lawn mowers made by Arkansas-based Bad Boy since 2008, a business relationship it said went south after S&H began distributing a rival company’s line of mowers
Johnson handled voir dire, several S&H witnesses, experts on both sides and jury instructions during the five-day trial. It concluded with the Springfield jury awarding the plaintiff $642,000 for breach of contract and about $5.2 million under the Missouri statute, an amount representing about 10 years in lost profits. The court recently awarded S&H its attorneys’ fees and costs, for a total judgment of more than $6.5 million.
The landmark case was the first to be tried in the state for breach of the Missouri Outdoor Power Equipment statute, said Johnson’s nominator, the late JoEllen Engelbart.
Before her death on Jan. 2, Engelbart was an assistant Jackson County prosecuting attorney and a member of the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City. Johnson is a board member of the association as well as its president-elect for 2022.
“Shannon’s steadfast leadership under these unusual circumstances helped drive their case to a win,” Engelbart wrote, noting that trying the case during the COVID-19 pandemic required lawyers and witnesses to wear masks when not participating in testimony and jurors to be spaced out in the courtroom in adherence with social distancing requirements.
A native Floridian whose mother grew up in southwest Missouri, Johnson earned her undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. She worked for nearly four years in the Kansas City Star’s marketing department before attending law school at the University of Kansas as a young mother, starting classes when her firstborn son was 18 months old. She and her husband live in Shawnee and are now parents of four boys, ages 17 to 28.
Johnson graduated from KU Law in 2007 and has since built a practice in general business and commercial litigation, first at Warden Grier and later at Scharnhorst Ast Kennard Griffin.
In 2012, she joined her current firm, where she works on construction, employment, transportation, discrimination, fraud, wrongful death, personal injury, product liability and class action cases, among others.