Today appears to be former employee day, topped off with the first seizure order I’ve seen under the still relatively new Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which is what we used to call UTSA, or TUTSA or TTSA back when it was common law or Texas statutory law. In this case, a former employee is alleged to have taken the company’s trade secrets. Judge Mazzant authorized seizure of a laptop belonging to the company in the employee’s possession, but the laptop couldn’t be found, which set the stage for the injunction proceeding as well as additional excitement for the defendants’ electronic devices.
You know those cases where an employee leaves the company and after being sued by the employee the company discovers that some things happened to documents relating to the claim? This is one of those cases, and the aspect we’re looking at is the motion for sanctions arising out of the alleged destruction of documents alleged by be relevant to the claims by the former employee.
It was literally a dark and stormy night in Lavon, Texas when the plaintiff’s home, including allegedly the brick veneer, was damaged in a hailstorm/windstorm. The insurance claim that arose out of that storm generated a recent order granting only a wee bit of a motion to exclude an expert witness in the Sherman Division.
This is a trademark and unfair competition case. The case ended with an injunction, which was then followed by the defendant taking bankruptcy. Plaintiff, however, continued to see the Defendant violating the injunction through its social media posts, and filed a motion for contempt, which is where the interesting part started.
There are a number of significant recent venue opinions in the past few days – significant because they’re all from different judges. The week is getting busy with hearings and hearing prep, but I wanted to start rolling out commentary, beginning with this one from Judge Mazzant in Sherman.
It’s a sad day with Jason Witten retiring from our beloved Cowboys, so I decided I had to wear the jersey to work. Which made for interesting sidewalk conversation when I asked a herd of lawyers headed past my office how they were expecting their hearing with Judge Gilstrap to go, where they were on the docket, and which pretrial motions they had rulings on already. (This time next week Law.com will probably be running a story about how homeless people in Marshall quiz visiting lawyers about federal civil procedure).
But life goes on … as it did for the parties in this case in which Judge Mazzant entered judgment for $24 million and change following a jury verdict last fall in which the jury found that there was no patent infringement but that there was a breach of contract, specifically a confidentiality agreement, and assessed $15 million in damages.
This is a patent infringement case involving medical devices that are currently in clinical trials across the country, including at sites in the Eastern District of Texas. The original motion to dismiss for improper venue was denied pre-TC Heartland. The renewed motion was denied because the issue of improper venue could not be addressed at the motion to dismiss stage because the basis for the defense depended on factual questions that could not be resolved at that stage.
But once further discovery into the infringing acts in the EDTX was conducted, at the summary judgment stage the Court could address the question of the relevance of the § 271(e)(1) safe harbor defense in determining whether venue was proper.
Some afternoons it’s not the weather than sends chills down your spine but the thought that you could have been in a party’s position in a case you’re reading. In the attached, Judge Mazzant denied a party’s motion to withdraw a party’s motion to withdraw and amend deemed admissions. The order provides a useful guide on what facts are important when you find yourself in a similar situation. Or, let’s be clear here – how not to respond to discovery requests.
Okay, maybe that’s a tad bold, but seriously – what’s not to like about an opinion that lays out jurisdictional facts and tells you when you have enough? Of course it also notes that there isn’t general personal jurisdiction, but then you already knew that, right?
Last month I mentioned a law professor of mine telling me that the thing that lawyers are most interested in learning about federal court is how to get out, hence the interest in standards for removal and remand. It turns out that’s not exactly true – they are actually even more interested in the standards for setting aside default judgments (which includes the subsidiary issue of setting aside the clerk’s entry of default. This case by Judge Mazzant is not the freshest egg in the drawer, but Westlaw apparently just decided that it needed publishing, and after all, ten months is not such a long time. So here are the standards you need if you find yourself in this very uncomfortable situation.