Zunum Aero Inc v. The Boeing Company et al

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff: Zunum Aero Inc
    • Counsel for Plaintiff: Benjamin F Heidlage | Brian T. Goldman | Charlotte Baigent | Demian A Ordway | Michael S Shuster | Scott M Danner | Vincent G Levy | Jack Lovejoy | Steven W Fogg | Armand J Kornfeld | Colin Hagan | David J Shlansky | Eliot M Harris
    • Expert Witnesses For Plaintiff: Luiz Andrade | Walter Bratic | Werner J.A. Dahm | Donald Garvett | Viswanath Tata
  • Defendant: The Boeing Company | Boeing HorizonX Ventures LLC | Safran SA | Safran Corporate Ventures SAS | Safran Electrical & Power SAS | Safran Helicopter Engines SASU
    • Counsel for Defendant: Cassidy O’Sullivan | Chandler W Matz | Emily Michael | John C Hueston | Justin Michael Greer | Karen Ding| Moez M Kaba | Sourabh Mishra | Tate Harshbarger | Yegor Fursevich | David A. Perez | Susan E Foster | Ian Rogers | Madeline Dover Swan | Aaron M Healey | Dustin Michael Koenig | Matthew A Kairis | Catherine S. Simonsen
    • Expert Witnesses for Defendant: Nisha Mody | Mark Ehsani | Ronald Barretts |

Verdict Information

  • Verdict date: May 30, 2024
  • Total damages awarded to the Plaintiff: $159.87 million
    • Boeing’s unjust enrichment from Zunum’s trade secrets misappropriation – $14.15 million
    • Compensation for the harm as a result of Boeing’s trade secret misappropriation – $67.08 million
    • Breach of 2017 Investor Rights Letter – $67.08 million
    • Tortious interference with Zunum’s business expectations – $11.56

About the Case


Boeing, along with its affiliates and major suppliers, had allegedly targeted Zunum to access its proprietary information and trade secrets. Zunum had pioneered hybrid-electric and electric aircraft for short-haul flights under 1,500 miles, aiming to revolutionize air travel like Tesla in the automotive industry. Zunum’s technology promised cheaper, faster, cleaner, and quieter alternatives to current domestic flights, opening new markets.

Boeing exploited its position as an Observer on Zunum’s Board and through due diligence under the guise of a strategic investment. This access allowed Boeing to obtain Zunum’s business plan, market analysis, and technological secrets, which it then misused to benefit itself and harm Zunum. Initially, Boeing believed hybrid-electric aircraft were far from realization. However, after accessing Zunum’s information, Boeing recognized the potential threat to its single-aisle aircraft market.

Through extensive due diligence, Boeing deployed engineers who also worked on competing projects, leveraging Zunum’s information without permission. To maintain control, Boeing misled Zunum with investment promises while sabotaging its efforts to attract other investors. Boeing copied Zunum’s plans and approached Safran and other OEMs to develop a hybrid-electric propulsion system for its own aircraft, the BHE-11, using Zunum’s secrets.

Boeing’s actions accelerated Safran’s development of hybrid-electric aircraft by nearly two decades. Safran and UTAS used Zunum’s information to partner with Boeing, excluding Zunum from its own market. Zunum eventually discovered Boeing was developing a replica of its aircraft, staffed by the same personnel who conducted due diligence.

Boeing apparently strung Zunum along with false assurances, keeping it dependent for capital and market validation. Boeing induced Zunum to accept convertible debt financing without disclosing its competitive intentions. By the time Zunum realized Boeing’s misappropriation, it was starved of capital.

Boeing breached contracts, fiduciary duties, and misappropriated trade secrets, stifling Zunum’s entry into the aircraft industry. Boeing colluded with other aerospace manufacturers to block Zunum’s market entry. This led to multiple legal claims against Boeing and its affiliates.


Boeing’s and HorizonX’s actions forced Zunum to seek capital from alternative sources at higher costs and less favorable terms. Zunum faced financial distress due to Boeing and HorizonX, and had to replace suppliers Boeing, Safran Electrical & Power (SEP), and Safran Helicopter Engines (SHE). This led to a substantial loss of goodwill and first-mover advantages in the hybrid-electric and all-electric aircraft market.

Due to Boeing’s and HorizonX’s unfair and deceptive practices, Zunum incurred actual damages and is entitled to up to three times the actual damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Boeing’s statements and omissions caused Zunum to pay the 2017 and 2018 Convertible Promissory Notes with 6% annual interest. The conduct of Boeing, HorizonX, Safran, SCV, SEP, and SHE delayed competition and devastated Zunum as a market competitor.

The actions of Boeing, HorizonX, Safran, Safran Corporate Ventures (SCV), SEP, and SHE had substantial anti-competitive effects. They reduced viable options for lowering air emissions and noise pollution and delayed cost-effective regional air travel. Due to Boeing’s and HorizonX’s breaches of fiduciary duties, Zunum suffered and continues to suffer irreparable harm, not fully compensable by damages.

Boeing’s and HorizonX’s breaches of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing caused Zunum damages to be determined at trial. Zunum also suffered irreparable harm from these breaches, not fully compensable by damages. Additionally, Boeing’s and HorizonX’s breaches of the 2017 IRL resulted in damages and ongoing irreparable harm to Zunum.


Zunum requested that the Court grant compensatory, consequential, exemplary, punitive, and multiple damages on all permitted claims. Additionally, Zunum sought prejudgment interest. They asked for permanent injunctive relief to stop the ongoing use of their trade secrets by Boeing, HorizonX, SCV, SEP, and SHE, and to end anti-competitive and exclusionary conduct by HorizonX, SCV, SEP, and SHE. Zunum requested a declaration that Boeing’s and HorizonX’s rights under the 2017 and 2018 Convertible Promissory Notes were extinguished, including any obligation by Zunum to repay or allow conversion to equity. They also sought attorneys’ fees. Furthermore, Zunum asked for any other equitable and injunctive relief necessary to prevent and remedy the alleged anti-competitive conduct. Lastly, they requested any further relief the Court deemed just and proper. Zunum also requested a jury trial.

Jury Verdict

On May 30, 2024, a Washington jury determined Boeing’s unjust enrichment from Zunum’s trade secrets misappropriation at $14.15 million. Zunum’s compensation for the harm as a result of Boeing’s trade secret misappropriation amounted to $67.08 million. Additionally, the jury held that Boeing owed $67.08 million for breaching the 2017 Investor Rights Letter. An additional $11.56 million was granted for Boeing’s tortious interference with Zunum’s business expectations. However, the jury found Zunum’s failure to mitigate damages. Consequently, Boeing received $20.82 million in damages against Zunum.

Following court orders and jury responses from various dates, a judgment on the verdict was entered on June 4, 2024. The judgment favored Boeing and HorizonX against Zunum on claims of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Securities Act of Washington. Boeing also won on the claim of breaching the 2016 Proprietary Information Agreement. HorizonX prevailed on breaches of the 2017 and 2018 Note Agreements, with Zunum succeeding on the breach of the 2017 Investor Rights Letter. However, Zunum won against Boeing for tortious interference with business expectancy and against both Boeing and HorizonX for violating the Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Boeing succeeded in its claim for declaratory judgment of patent inventorship. Zunum was awarded $71,970,000, with HorizonX jointly liable for $60,410,000. Additionally, HorizonX was awarded $9,000,000 against Zunum, with 6% annual interest as per the 2017 and 2018. Note Agreements.

Court Documents:

Available upon request