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Barranco v. 3D Systems Corp.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 10, 2018

RONALD BARRANCO, Plaintiff,
v.
3D SYSTEMS CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, 3D SYSTEMS, INC., a California corporation, ABRAHAM REICHENTAL, DAMON GREGOIRE, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S COMBINED RULE 50(B) MOTION FOR JMOL AS TO COUNTERCLAIM 2, AND RULE 59(A) MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL

          Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Ronald Barranco's (“Plaintiff” or “Barranco”) Combined Rule 50(b) Motion for JMOL as to Counterclaim 2, and Rule 59(a) Motion for a New Trial, filed April 30, 2018 (“Motion”). [Dkt. no. 406.] On May 14, 2018, Defendants/Counterclaimants 3D Systems Corporation and 3D Systems, Inc. (“Defendants” or “3D Systems”) filed their memorandum in opposition, and Plaintiff filed his reply on May 29, 2018. [Dkt. nos. 410, 415.] The Court has considered the Motion as a non-hearing matter pursuant to Rule LR7.2(e) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). Plaintiff's Motion is hereby denied for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         The background of this matter is well known to the parties, and the Court will only discuss the background relevant to the Motion. On January 30, 2015, this Court issued its Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on All Claims Against Them (“1/30/15 Order”). [Dkt. no. 140.[1] In the 1/30/15 Order, this Court ruled, inter alia, that the promise at issue was whether Defendants had promised Plaintiff they would invest in the primary domains, not whether Defendants guaranteed Plaintiff a $5, 000, 000 buyout payment. 2015 WL 419687, at *8. On April 19, 2016, Defendants filed a motion in limine seeking to excluding references to the alleged $5, 000, 000 buyout promise (“Defendants' MIL #4”). [Dkt. no. 189.] Also on April 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed motions in limine seeking to exclude testimony of Paul Saltzman (“Plaintiff's MIL #1”) and seeking to introduce evidence regarding an arbitration award between the parties (“Plaintiff's MIL #2” and all collectively “motions in limine”). [Dkt. nos. 179, 180.] On May 13, 2016 this Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's MIL #1 and denied Plaintiff's MIL #2. [Minutes, dkt. no. 244.] Also on May 13, 2016, this Court orally granted Defendant's MIL #4. [Minutes, dkt. no. 245.]

         The jury trial began on May 17, 2016. [Minutes, dkt. no. 251.] On May 18, 2016, outside the presence of the jury, this Court again stated testimony regarding a $5, 000, 000 buyout payment was not admissible. [Trial - Day 1 Trans. (“Day 1 Trans.”), filed 10/13/17 (dkt. no. 336), at 70-71.]

         On May 27, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants on all of Plaintiff's claims and in favor of Defendants on their counterclaim for breach of the Non-Compete Provision contained within the parties' Purchase and Sale Agreement (“PSA” and “Non-Compete Counterclaim”). [Special Verdict Form, dkt. no. 282.] In finding for Defendants on the Non-Compete Counterclaim, the jury answered “YES” to the question: “Did Barranco breach his promise not to engage in competition with 3D Systems for five years after signing the PSA?” [Id. at 4.] On May 9, 2017, in its Order Denying Plaintiff's Oral Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (“5/9/17 Order”), this Court concluded, in light of the jury's verdict, that Defendants were entitled to an equitable accounting. [Dkt. no. 300.[2] On November 20, 2017, this Court conducted a one-day bench trial to perform the equitable accounting. [Minutes, dkt. no. 382.] On March 30, 2018, this Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order (“FOF/COL”). [Dkt. no. 391.[3] The Court found Barranco breached the Non-Compete Provision of the PSA in four ways: 1) by using private email; 2) by providing $5, 200 to assist Christopher Breault with his Pro SLA website; 3) by working with David Pham and R.J. Barranco, at least from February 19 to 21, 2012, to develop or design instant online quoting; and 4) by working to develop or design a new quoting engine during at least the period from March 19 to September 25, 2013. 307 F.Supp.3d at 1089-91.

         On August 13, 2018, this Court issued its Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Rule 52(b)/59(e) Motion to Amend Bench Findings and Judgment (“8/13/18 Order”). [Dkt. no. 435.[4] In the instant Motion, Plaintiff renews his motion for judgment as a matter of law on the Non-Compete Counterclaim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) and seeks a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

         STANDARD

         This Court has stated:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) allows a party to file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law after entry of judgment on a jury verdict. To file a renewed motion under Rule 50(b), a party generally must first file a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) before the case is submitted to the jury. E.E.O.C. v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951, 961 (9th Cir. 2009). If the court denies or defers ruling on the Rule 50(a) motion and the jury returns a verdict against the moving party, the party may then renew the motion under Rule 50(b). Id. Because it is a “renewed” motion, a party cannot “raise arguments in its post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b) that it did not raise in its preverdict Rule 50(a) motion.” Id. (quoting Freund v. Nycomed Amersham, 347 F.3d 752, 761 (9th Cir. 2003)).
The rule that a party must move for judgment as a matter of law before the case is submitted to a jury does not apply if the motion alleges inconsistencies in the answers given to a special verdict. Pierce v. Souther[n] Pacific Transp. Co., 823 F.2d 1366, 1369 (9th Cir. 1987) (“When a special verdict does not support a judgment a reviewing court may make an exception to the Rule 50(b) requirement of a motion for directed verdict as a prerequisite to a motion [judgment notwithstanding the verdict].”); Zhang v. American Gem Seafoods, Inc., 339 F.3d 1020, 1033 (9th Cir. 2003).
In ruling on a 50(b) motion, the Court may allow judgment on the verdict, order a new trial, or reverse the jury and direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). The court will direct judgment as a matter of law if “the evidence permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict.” Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d at 961 (quoting Josephs v. Pac. Bell, 443 F.3d 1050, 1062 (9th Cir. 2006)). When considering the motion, the court “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Id. (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumb[]ing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)). Instead, the court reviews the evidence “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party” and draws “all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Id. (quoting Josephs, 443 F.3d at 1062)). “While the district court may not resolve conflicts in the testimony or weigh the evidence, it may evaluate evidence at least to the extent of determining whether there is substantial evidence to support the verdict. ‘[A] mere scintilla of evidence will not suffice.'” Von Zuckerstein v. Argonne Nat'l Laboratory, 984 F.2d 1467, 1471 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing La Montagne v. American Convenience Products, Inc., 750 F.2d 1405, 1410 (7th Cir. 1984)).
The Ninth Circuit has defined substantial evidence as “such relevant evidence as reasonable minds might accept as adequate to support a conclusion even if it is possible to draw two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence.” Maynard v. City of San Jose, 37 F.3d 1396, 1404 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing George v. City of Long Beach, 973 F.2d 706, 709 (9th Cir. 1992)).

Du Preez v. Banis, CIVIL 14-00171 LEK-RLP, 2017 WL 3222536, at *1-2 (D. Hawai`i July 27, 2017) (alterations in Du Preez) (some citations omitted). This Court also noted:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) allows a party filing a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law to include an alternative request for a new trial under Rule 59. Rule 59 allows the court to grant a new trial after a jury trial “for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). Although Rule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a court may order a new trial, historically recognized grounds include: “that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving.” Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods., 212 F.3d 493, 510 n.5 (9th Cir. 2000)).
“When a motion for a new trial is based on insufficiency of the evidence, a ‘stringent standard applies' and a new trial may be granted ‘only if the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence or it is quite clear that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result.'” MLM Property, LLC v. Country Cas. Ins. Co., 2010 WL 1948609, at *2 (D. ...

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