JMOL Rulings in Chrimar v. Alcatel-Lucent

Those who have been reading this weblog for a while know that I’ve got a thing for JMOL rulings.  They are hands down not just the most useful documents to review for a forensic understanding of what happened in a particular case, but also to learn what the requirements are for claims and defenses.

Pres. Underwood with a statue commemorating his tenure as Practice Court professor at Baylor Law School (I’m pretty sure)

My interest in JMOLs started before I even started practicing law.  In the winter of 1991 I was in my last quarter at Baylor Law School, preparing for my upcoming clerkship with Judge Hall in Marshall by interning for a federal judge in Waco and taking Federal Courts from Prof. Bill Underwood, who had just started at Baylor the prior year.  Prof. Underwood emphasized the importance of knowing the FRCPs by pronouncing that if we didn’t know the forthcoming Dec. 1, 1991 amendments to the FRCPs, we wouldn’t pass his class.  As a result, I spent the next ten years as (it seemed) the only lawyer east of Dallas that knew what the rules were on subpoena range – because they were in that batch of rule changes.

I have to mention that this was before Prof. Underwood became the Baylor Practice Court professor, a job he held before becoming Baylor’s interim president from 2005-2006, a job he did surprisingly well in.  I say “surprisingly” because it’s hard to picture a Baylor PC professor excelling in a job that doesn’t involve torturing law students.  It’s like finding out that Genghis Khan took a sabbatical from pillaging to run a successful Habitat for Humanity program.  Or a T-rex taking a break from chasing sauropods to set up a child care program for Triceratops eggs.  It’s just not expected.  I note that Professor Underwood has continued his career outside the fields of torture and despair enhancement as president of Mercer University since 2006, and I wish him well.  Again, I didn’t have him for PC, so this is easy for me to say.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, JMOLs.  Guess what else was in those Dec. 1, 1991 amendments?  The motion previously known as a “directed verdict” was renamed “judgment as a matter of law” and given a new scope.  And wouldn’t you know it, nine months later I’m minding my own business at the law clerk’s table in the courtroom in Marshall when Judge Hall grants one of these newfangled motions, sends the jury home, and promises a written order.

What came out of that 13 days later was Johnson v. Bekins Van Lines, 808 F.Supp. 545 (E.D. Tex. 1992) – one of the first reported cases using the new name and standard, and a foxhole’s-eye view as to the new rule in the most sensitive of contexts – a court deciding that the evidence was insufficient for the case to go to the jury.   I still have the advance sheet on a shelf in my office, and I’ve never stopped appreciating the unique insight that the explanations contained in JMOL rulings can provide into a case.

The most recent JMOL from the EDTX comes from Tyler, in

Orders Requiring Disclosure of Focus Group Information: A Brief History

Dennis Crouch just posted on Patently-O about an order from Magistrate Judge Love requiring parties to notify each other (with other information in camera) if they conduct a focus group.  He correctly notes that it’s an unusual order, but the language is familiar, and I think there’s a reason why we haven’t seen such an order in a case before, which goes back to where these type of orders originated. Several years ago 

Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Part in Contract/Fraud Case

This is a fight between the Zhangs and the Monroes over East Texas salt mining centering on the world-famous Grand Saline Salt Dome. It appears that things went south with respect to Ms. Zhang’s investment in the activity in the Monroe Salt Mine, resulting in a breach of contract and fraud suit. As set forth in the opinion, Judge Love denied the motion at to the contract claims, noting that Defendants failed to cite to summary judgment evidence in their response, but Plaintiffs did not file a reply brief rebutting Defendants’ affirmative defenses, either.  As for the fraud, negligent misrepresentations, and statutory fraud in stock transactions claims, Judge Love found that the Plaintiff had met her burden of proof, and the Defendants hadn’t established a genuine issue of material fact, and thus granted the motion as to these claims.  The Court also found that it was appropriate to pierce the corporate veil, thus submitting the individual defendants to individual liability for acts committed on behalf of CMA. Zhang v Monroe

Default judgment in patent case set at $20,000 based on analysis of 20 prior settlements

A few days ago I saw a post that someone was claiming that the average settlement in a “patent troll” case was $300,000, and tweeted in response “I would have said $30,000, and lately most less than that. Just my experience.” Karma being the friend that it is, that five days later Magistrate Judge Love issued this order setting the amount of a default judgment in a case at $20,000.  While the order is redacted to remove references to the amounts of the prior settlements, what it does reveal is that the prior licenses led the Court to the $20,000 number, as discussed below.

Motion to Strike Damages Expert Testimony (Such As It Was) Denied

I’m always surprised that more parties don’t take advantage of holding an opponent’s expert to what their report says, as opposed to complaining about its insufficiency.  This case presented the interesting situation of a plaintiff’s damages expert who didn’t come up with a per item royalty or even an overall reasonable royalty opinion, and the defendant sought to exclude all testimony.  “While Chrimar’s approach may not be the most prudent choice for presentation of damages to the jury,” the Court wrote,