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Polyone Corporation v. Lu

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 10, 2019

POLYONE CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
YUN MARTIN LU, et al., Defendants.

          DENTONS U.S. LLP By: William M. Gantz One of the attorneys for Defendants Yun Martin Lu, Thomas Castile, Polymax Thermoplastic Elastomers LLC and Nantong Polymax Elastomer Technology Co., Ltd.

          DEFENDANTS' RULE 50(B) MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW AND ALTERNATIVE MOTION PURSUANT TO RULE 59(E)

          MANISH S. SHAH, JUDGE

         Defendants Nantong Polymax Elastomers LLC (“Nantong Polymax”) and Polymax Thermoplastic Elastomers LLC (“Polymax TPE”), Yun Martin Lu (“Dr. Lu”) and Thomas Castile (“Castile”) (collectively “Defendants”), hereby file this renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b).[1] Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Counts II (tortious interference with contract) of the Amended Complaint as set forth below notwithstanding the jury verdict reached on June 3, 2019.

         STANDARD

         Fed.R.Evid. Rule 50(a) provides the following:

(1) In General. If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:
(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) Motion. A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion must specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment.

         “The [Rule 50(a)] standard is whether the evidence presented, combined with all reasonable inferences permissibly drawn, is legally sufficient to support the verdict when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.” Petit v. City of Chicago, 239 F.Supp.2d 761, 767-68 (N.D. Ill. 2002), aff'd, 352 F.3d 1111 (7th Cir. 2003). If the Court determines that no rational jury could return a verdict for Plaintiff, then it should grant Defendants' Rule 50(a) motion. Id. (citing Dadian v. Village of Wilmette, 269 F.3d 831, 837 (7th Cir. 2001)).

         If the Court does not grant a Rule 50(a) Motion, but takes it under advisement, the movant may still file a renewed motion under Rule 50(b). In a Rule 50(b) motion, the court “construes the evidence strictly in favor of the party who prevailed before the jury and examines the evidence only to determine whether the jury's verdict could reasonably be based on that evidence.” Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d 655, 659-660 (7th Cir. 2012). The court may, at its discretion, direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b)(3).

         ARGUMENT

         I. DEFENDANTS ARE ENTITLED TO JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW ON COUNT II (TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACT).

         To support a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations under Illinois law, PolyOne has the burden to prove the following elements: (1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract; (2) the defendant's awareness of the contractual relation; (3) the defendant's intentional and unjustified inducement of breach of the contract; (4) breach by the other contracting party caused by the defendant's wrongful conduct; and (5) resulting damages. Cromeens, Holloman, Sibert, Inc. v. AB Volvo, 349 F.3d 376, 397-98 (7th Cir. 2003).

         Plaintiff cannot establish breach of the employment contract based upon trade secrets because it is preempted by ITSA, and, in any event, the jury found in favor of Defendants on the trade secret claims. Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Panduit Corp., 108 F.Supp.2d 968, 971-72 (N.D. Ill. 2000). Kutka's employment contract(s) states the following concerning non-competition during employment: Kutka agreed he would not “promote or assist, financially or otherwise, any person, firm, association, partnership, corporation or other entity engaged in any business that competes with the business of PolyOne.” (PEX007 ¶4); (PEX221 ¶4). PolyOne has taken the position and has argued that Kutka breached his employment contract with PolyOne by (1) providing Defendants with information related to the Supreme Corq extruder equipment for auction in March 2011 (PEX093); (2) assisting Defendants with recruiting Rob Banning or Tony Henry to work for Polymax (PEX189); and (3) providing input to Defendants related to the office layout for Polymax TPE. (PEX203). These were the only acts unrelated to alleged trade secret misappropriation identified and argued by Plaintiff and which could conceivably qualify as underlying acts of breach by Kutka which could have been induced by Defendants.

         a. There Was No. Evidence of Damages Proximately Caused by the Alleged Underlying Breaches By Kutka.

         The court should grant this motion for the plain reason that PolyOne did not present any evidence related to damages proximately caused by these alleged breaches of his employment contract. Plaintiff did not present any evidence that Kutka failed to perform his job responsibilities or that PolyOne was otherwise adversely affected as a result of Kutka's breach of contract as induced by any Defendant. PolyOne also did not connect any damages to the evidence that supported Kutka's breach of contract. PolyOne did not lose any opportunity with respect to the public auction of the Supreme Corq equipment. Walter Ripple admitted on cross-examination that PolyOne was not interested in purchasing the Supreme Corq equipment. (Tr. 1200:9-1201-3).

         In addition, there was no testimony that Kutka committed any act that could be construed as “recruiting” either Tony Henry or Rob Banning, nor did PolyOne present or claim any specific damages relating to any opportunities to hire or work with Rob Banning or Tony Henry. Kutka attended one dinner at Bobby Deerfield Restaurant on April 25, 2013 where Tony Henry joined. (PEX189; Tr. 344:24-346:15). Defendants never hired Tony Henry. Plaintiff presented no evidence of any loss with respect to Tony Henry, or even that they were interested in hiring Tony Henry, or that Tony Henry provided any advantage or business opportunity to Defendants which rightfully belong to the Plaintiff.

         Similarly, Rob Banning is an independent consultant who has the freedom to be employed where he chooses. There was no evidence or testimony otherwise. Plaintiff did not put on any case that Robert Banning provided any information, any advantage or opportunity that belong to Plaintiff or otherwise helped Defendants in any way which damaged Plaintiff. There was no testimony that Rob Banning had anything to do with Nomacorc, nor did Plaintiff put on any testimony that it lost any other piece of business, or any other customer or project in any way for any reason, let alone related to the brief period of time which Polymax TPE worked with Rob Banning. In fact, in response to Defendants' motion in limine no. 2 seeking to bar any evidence of loss or damages related to ...


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