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

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 14, 2019

SORIN GROUP USA, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ST. JUDE MEDICAL S.C., INC., Defendant.

          Jared B. Briant, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP, for plaintiff.

          Adam J. Combies and Matthew C. Hanson, COMBIES HANSON, P.C., for non-party William Plourde, et al.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO UNSEAL

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is non-party William Plourde and Freda Merill's (collectively, “Plourde”) motion to unseal deposition transcripts filed with the court under a protective order. Plaintiff Sorin Group, USA (“Sorin”) opposes the motion, arguing that it is procedurally flawed and, if not procedurally flawed, should nevertheless be denied on the merits. Because Sorin's countervailing interests outweigh the presumption of public access that may be attached to deposition transcripts, the Court will deny the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 26, 2014, Sorin brought this case (hereinafter “Minnesota case”) against St. Jude Medical, Inc. (“St. Jude”), alleging various unfair competition claims stemming from St. Jude's employment of two of Sorin's former sales executives.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 1-5, 45-71, Sept. 26, 2014, Docket No. 1.) Sorin essentially alleged that St. Jude improperly induced the employees to leave Sorin. (See generally Compl.)

         In response, St. Jude argued that the employees left Sorin because of “Sorin's lack of response to the negative publicity surrounding Mitroflow, and sales' reps' resulting inability to sell that product, which surgeons naturally no longer wanted to use.” (St. Jude Medical, S.C., Inc.'s Statement of Case at 4, Oct. 31, 2016, Docket No. 219.) Mitroflow is a heart valve produced by Sorin which allegedly caused the death of a child in 2013. (Id. at 3.) St. Jude argued that the negative publicity and a subsequent negative review of the product caused the employees to seek employment with St. Jude, rather than any wrongful inducement by St. Jude itself. (Id. at 3-4.) The case went to a jury, which found in favor of St. Jude, and Sorin's post-trial appeal was dismissed by the Eighth Circuit. (Judgment, Dec. 9, 2016, Docket No. 284; USCA Judgment, Nov. 6, 2017, Docket No. 339.)

         Plourde, a non-party to this case, brought a separate suit against Sorin in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (hereinafter “Massachusetts case”). (Mem. in Support at 1, Feb. 19, 2019, Docket No. 342.) In that case, Plourde alleges that Sorin “under-reported and/or misrepresented product failures to the Food and Drug Administration” in regard to the Mitroflow heart valve. (Mem. in Support at 5.)

         On February 19, 2019, Plourde filed a motion with the Court seeking to lift the seal on deposition transcripts of former Sorin employees. (Mot. to Lift the Seal of Dep. Trs. (“Mot. to Lift”), Feb. 19, 2019, Docket No. 341.) Plourde argues that the testimony given by those employees will show that Sorin knew of problems with the Mitroflow heart valve, yet failed to properly report them to the FDA. (Mem. in Support at 6.) Specifically, Plourde requests unsealing of the following exhibits to the Declaration of Jared B. Briant (Docket No. 225):

1. Exhibit B (FILED UNDER SEAL): true and correct copy of the transcript from the deposition of Brett Butcher, taken July 31, 2015;
2. Exhibit C (FILED UNDER SEAL): true and correct copy of the transcript from the deposition of Patricia L. Carr, taken July 27, 2015;
3. Exhibit D (FILED UNDER SEAL): true and correct copy of the transcript from the deposition of Spencer Seibert, taken July 17, 2015;
4. Exhibit E (FILED UNDER SEAL): true and correct copy of the transcript from the deposition of Scott McCormick, taken June 9, 2015; and, 5. Exhibit G (FILED UNDER SEAL): true and correct copy of the transcript ...

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