Haynes Trane Service of Denver and its owner Frederick M. Haynes have won an $18 million breach of contract jury verdict against the Trane Co. Haynes had sued in July 1995 after Trane had canceled its franchise.

Fred Haynes personally was awarded $8.1 million and his firm was awarded $9.9 million.

The suit charged that Trane was trying to eliminate its franchisees by either buying them or driving them out of the business.

Trane has filed post-trial motions to overturn the jury verdict and, if unsuccessful, will likely file an appeal.

Trane had alleged fraud when it terminated Haynes' franchises.

"Our position in the lawsuit was that the terminations were fundamentally pretextual in design to implement a long-term strategy of the Trane Co. to get out of the franchise distribution system and move to company ownership of the distribution channel in major markets," said Haynes' lawyer, Charlie Hecht of Petrie, Bower, Vriesman & Hecht.

Fred Haynes had two separate agreements with the Trane Co., Hecht explained. One was a franchise personally with Trane to sell larger HVAC equipment; the second was a wholesale distribution agreement to sell unitary equipment.

Trane alleged that there was a pattern of fraud on the unitary side. They claimed that a senior manager at Haynes attempted to manipulate a rebate system, called "claim backs," in order to keep money that should have been paid to Trane. Trane also argued that Fred Haynes was personally responsible for the fraud.

"So that's why they terminated the unitary agreement," Hecht said. "And, in turn, they took the position that they had one relationship with Fred Haynes-slash-Haynes Trane and terminated the franchise. Termination of one would justify termination of the other."

The judge, however, threw out the charge on Jan. 12, finding no evidence of fraud. That set the stage for the jury verdict.