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Sorin Group USA, Inc. v. St. Jude Medical, S.C., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 15, 2017

ST. JUDE MEDICAL, S.C., INC., Defendant.

          James W. Poradek, Katherine S. Razavi, Timothy M. Sullivan, Patrick Bottini, and Kelly Fermoyle, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP, and Jared B. Briant, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP for plaintiff.

          JoLynn M. Markison and Joseph W. Hammell, DORSEY & WHITNEY LLP, for defendant.



         Plaintiff Sorin Group USA, Inc. (“Sorin”) brought this action against Defendant St. Jude Medical, S.C., Inc. (“St. Jude”) based on St. Jude's hiring of two former Sorin employees - a supervisor, Danna Homan, and a salesperson, John Mitch Tracy. Sorin alleged multiple claims, including: intentional interference with contract; aiding and abetting breach of legal duties; and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. The case was tried before a jury in November 2016. At trial, the jury found that the greater weight of the evidence did not show: (1) St. Jude intentionally interfered with Homan's or Tracy's contractual relationship with Sorin; (2) St. Jude aided and abetted Tracy's alleged breach of the duty of loyalty owed to Sorin; or (3) St. Jude intentionally interfered with Sorin's reasonable expectation of economic advantage or benefit. Sorin now moves for a new trial claiming the Court erred when it admitted an exhibit into evidence and that St. Jude made a highly prejudicial attack contending Sorin was litigious during trial. Sorin also moves for the Court to review the clerk's cost judgment, requesting the Court adjust the cost judgment to exclude $7, 442.64. The Court will deny Sorin's motion for a new trial and grant in part and deny in part Sorin's motion to review the clerk's cost judgment.


         St. Jude and Sorin are competitors in the heart valve and related products market. Homan and Tracy were Sorin employees. Sorin Grp. USA, Inc. v. St. Jude Med. S.C., Inc., 176 F.Supp.3d 814, 818-19 (D. Minn. 2016). Homan was employed as a Cardiac Surgery Regional Sales Manager at Sorin. Id. at 819. Homan left Sorin to work for St. Jude in January 2014. Id. Tracy worked for Sorin as a sales representative. Id. In August 2014, Tracy left Sorin to work for St. Jude. Id. Sorin brought this action in September 2014, alleging St. Jude recruited Homan and Tracy and tortiously caused them to breach their contracts, violate their fiduciary duties, and provide improper economic advantage to St. Jude. Id. at 828. After the Court granted in part and denied in part St. Jude's motion for summary judgment, id. at 839, the case proceeded to trial.

         As relevant to this motion, the “Saxon Order” is an exhibit that appeared on Sorin's trial exhibit list. (Decl. of James W. Poradek, Ex. 1, Jan. 6, 2017, Docket No. 304.) The Saxon Order is an order, unrelated to this case, where the Court granted, in part, a motion for a preliminary injunction in St. Jude Medical S.C., Inc. v. Saxon, No. 13-2332, 2013 WL 6481440 (D. Minn. Dec. 10, 2013).

         Prior to trial, St. Jude filed a motion in limine to exclude the Saxon Order. (Mem. in Supp. of Mot. in Lim. to Exclude Irrelevant Evid. at 4, Oct. 31, 2016, Docket No. 212.) St. Jude argued the Saxon Order was irrelevant, prejudicial, and would take “an inordinate amount of trial time” to “explain and contextualize.” (Id. at 4, 8.) At oral argument, while Sorin did not withdraw its argument that the Saxon Order was admissible, Sorin did not focus its oral argument on the Saxon Order. (Mots. in Lim. Tr. at 34:7-11, Dec. 14, 2016, Docket No. 287.) The Court granted St. Jude's motion to exclude the Saxon Order. (See Ct. Mins., Nov. 14, 2016, Docket No. 257.)

         Trial began on November 14, 2016. During opening statements, St. Jude first indicated that Sorin's decision not to pursue a preliminary injunction would be an issue in the case. (Trial Tr. at 63:15-25, 73:1-16, 76:15-18, Dec. 14, 2016, Docket Nos. 289-99.) St. Jude also discussed the absence of a preliminary injunction with two witnesses, Homan (id. at 361:19-21) and Sorin's expert (id. at 1813:12-1814:8). In response to St. Jude's inquiry regarding Sorin's decision not to move for a preliminary injunction, Sorin asked its in-house counsel about Sorin's motives with regard to the preliminary injunction issue. (Id. at 1560:10-1561:8.)

         On cross-examination of Sorin's in-house counsel, St. Jude addressed Sorin's decision not to seek a preliminary injunction. (Id. at 1863:1-1868:4, 1869:13-1870:15.) After this questioning, St. Jude showed the Saxon Order to the witness, without prior notice to Sorin, even though the Court had excluded the Saxon Order. (Id. at 1874:16- 1875:1.) Sorin objected and, at sidebar, Sorin argued the Court should not permit St. Jude to admit the Saxon Order because doing so would violate the Court's order regarding the motion in limine. (Id. at 1875:3-21.) St. Jude did not admit to the Court that the Saxon Order had been excluded and, instead, countered that because it was Sorin's exhibit, St. Jude should be allowed to admit the Saxon Order for the purpose of “cross-examin[ing] the witness about his testimony on direct examination about not pursuing an injunction.” (Id. at 1875:7-10, 1875:23-25.) The Court admitted the Saxon Order into evidence, but told St. Jude that it could not question Sorin's in-house counsel about the document if he had “never seen it before.” (Id. at 1876:5-10.) When cross-examination resumed, Sorin's in-house counsel testified that he was not familiar with the Saxon Order. (Id. at 1876:22-1877:2.) Yet, St. Jude continued to question Sorin's in-house counsel about the Saxon Order. (Id. at 1878:12-1880:25.)

         At closing argument, St. Jude discussed Sorin's failure to seek a preliminary injunction at length, explaining the Saxon Order gave the jury “an example of an injunction and what an injunction is and what it can do.” (Id. at 2422:24-2425:7.) St. Jude also highlighted that the Saxon Order was written by the Court and that attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels were part of the case. (Id. at 2423:10-13, 2424:1-3.) St. Jude further expressed its opinion about Sorin's motives for filing the lawsuit: “to punch St. Jude in the face because they [didn't] like the fact that [St. Jude] . . . hired one of [Sorin's] top sales reps.” (Id. at 2419:5-7.) St. Jude also indicated that the reason Sorin did not seek an injunction was “[b]ecause that [didn't] serve [Sorin's] purpose of punching St. Jude in the nose.” (Id. at 2424:16-17.)

         After the Court charged the jury, the jury deliberated and returned a verdict in favor of St. Jude on all counts. (See Jury Verdict, Dec. 1, 2016, Docket No. 280.)

         On January 6, 2017, Sorin filed a Motion for a New Trial. Three days later, St. Jude filed its Bill of Costs requesting $49, 494.48. Sorin filed objections to the Bill of Costs, asserting St. Jude was not entitled to $16, 265.59 of the costs sought. On May 3, 2017, the clerk's office issued a cost judgment in the amount of $47, 444.85 - reducing St. Jude's requested costs by $2, 049.63. In response, Sorin filed a motion to review the clerk's cost judgment, asking the Court to exclude $7, 442.64 of costs.



         Sorin moves the Court to grant a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 because, in Sorin's view, the Court erred in admitting the Saxon Order and St. Jude improperly argued Sorin had a litigious motive in bringing the case. Rule 59(a)(1) provides in relevant part: “[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues . . . after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” A new trial is appropriate when, because of legal errors, the first trial “resulted in a miscarriage of ...

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