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RRK Holding Co. v. Sears

May 27, 2008

RRK HOLDING COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEARS, ROEBUCK AND CO., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge

HONORABLE DAVID H. COAR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this Court are the post-trial motions of defendant Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s ("Defendant") and plaintiff RRK Holding Company ("Plaintiff"). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial or remittitur, on damages is denied; and Plaintiff's motion for prejudgment and post-judgment interests is granted.

In a two-count complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant breached the Nondisclosure Agreement (Count I) and misappropriated Plaintiff's trade secret (Count II) by disclosing Plaintiff's next generation combination power tool. A jury trial was held from November 5, 2007 through November 19, 2007. On November 19, 2007, the jury returned a verdict finding Defendant liable for breach of the Nondisclosure Agreement and for misappropriating Plaintiff's trade secret. Judgment on the verdict was entered on November 27, 2007, awarding Plaintiff $11,664,105 for actual losses, $1,688,136 for unjust enrichment, and $8,011,344 for punitive damages.

Subsequently, Defendant moves for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial or remittitur, on damages. Plaintiff moves to amend the judgment to include prejudgment interest and post-judgment interest.

I. Defendant's Renewed Motion For Judgment As A Matter of Law or, In The Alternative, For a New Trial Or Remittitur, On Damages

Defendant moves for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) or for a new trial or remittitur pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when "a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1). In deciding the motion, the court will consider "whether the evidence presented, combined with all reasonable inferences permissibly drawn therefrom, is sufficient to support the verdict when viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is directed.. In other words, [the court is] limited to assessing whether no rational jury could have found for the plaintiff." Emmel v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 95 F.3d 627, 629 (7th Cir. 1996). The court "may not step in and substitute its view of the contested evidence for the jury's." Id. at 634. For a Rule 59(a) motion for new trial, the party seeking relief must show that the jury awarded excessive damages, or the trial was not fair to the moving party. See Gen'l Foam Fabricators, Inc. v. Tenneco Chem., Inc., 695 F.2d 281, 288 (7th Cir. 1982). If the court finds that damages are excessive, the proper remedy is remittitur rather than a new trial.

The court will order a new trial only if the plaintiff refuses to accept the remittitur. See Davis v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 788 F.2d 1260, 1263 (7th Cir. 1986).

Defendant moves for judgment as a matter of law on five grounds: (1) Plaintiff offered insufficient evidence that Defendant's alleged trade secret misappropriation caused its damages;

(2) Plaintiff's expert failed to limit the period for calculating damages to any "head start" period;

(3) Plaintiff's expert's opinions were the product of unreliable methodology and unreasonable assumptions; (4) Plaintiff failed to apportion profits to just those associated with Defendant's alleged unlawful conduct; and (5) Plaintiff's lost profits damages were cut off as a matter of law in July 2002 when Dremel entered the market with a competing rotary cutting tool/plunge base product.

A. Proof of Causation

Defendant asserts that Plaintiff failed to prove that its damages were caused by Defendant's alleged trade secret misappropriation. Defendant argues that its price was significantly lower than Plaintiff's price for the spiral-saw tool, and that Plaintiff had presented no evidence that the plunge base accessory (the trade secret), as opposed to the tool components and accessories (non-trade secret), drove the sales. Thus, Defendant contends, the evidence is insufficient to show that consumers purchased Defendant's product due to the alleged trade secret component; rather the Defendant's lower price likely drove consumers to ...


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