Monday, March 16, 2020

Judge Newman's separate opinion in Hafco

In a separate opinion, Judge Newman wrote:

Jury damages awards, unless clearly unreasonable or
based on error in the jury instructions, are not readily modified.
See Fox v. Gen. Motors Corp., 247 F.3d 169, 180 (4th
Cir. 2001) (“A jury’s award of damages stands unless it is
grossly excessive or shocking to the conscience.”) (quotation
omitted). Hafco offers some theories why the jury could
have measured damages by GMS’ sales, for the jury was
not told that this evidence was irrelevant.

Hafco acknowledges that the jury instructions limited
damages to Hafco’s lost profits. The district court correctly
so observed. However, Hafco suggests that remittitur to
Hafco’s lost profits of $110,000 would be a more reasonable
action than remittitur to zero, for $110,000 reasonably
implements the jury’s verdict and intent. See Minks v. Polaris
Indus., Inc., 546 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (“[W]here
a portion of a verdict is for an identifiable amount that is
not permitted by law, the court may simply modify the
jury’s verdict to that extent and enter judgment for the correct amount.”
(quoting Johansen v. Combustion Eng’g, Inc.,
170 F.3d 1320, 1330 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing N.Y., L.E. &
W.R. Co. v. Estill, 147 U.S. 591 (1893)))).

I would simply correct the district court’s judgment,
and remit the damages award to the undisputed amount of
$110,000. A new trial, on undisputed facts, is not needed
to serve the purposes of the jury verdict.

Within the per curiam court opinion:

Standards of Review

We review the denial of a motion for judgment as a
matter of law (“JMOL”) under the law of the regional
circuit where the appeal from the district court would
normally lie. Orion IP, LLC v. Hyundai Motor Am., 605
F.3d 967, 973 (Fed. Cir. 2010). In the Fourth Circuit, the
district court’s ruling on a motion for JMOL receives
plenary review. Anderson v. G.D.C., Inc., 281 F.3d 452, 457
(4th Cir. 2002). The “decision to grant or deny a new trial
is within the sound discretion of the district court, and we
respect that determination absent an abuse of discretion.”
Cline v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 294, 301 (4th Cir.

On review of the jury’s factual findings, the evidence is
viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict.
Dotson v. Pfizer, 558 F.3d 284, 292 (4th Cir. 2009). The
Fourth Circuit, in which this trial was held, “accord[s] the
utmost respect to jury verdicts and tread[s] gingerly in
reviewing them.” Lack v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 240 F.3d
255, 259 (4th Cir. 2001); Price v. City of Charlotte, 93 F.3d
1241, 1250 (4th Cir. 1996). See United States v. Foster, 507
F.3d 233, 244 (4th Cir. 2007) (“A jury’s verdict must be
upheld on appeal if there is substantial evidence in the
record to support it.”

Note the standard for review of summary judgment, expressed in Centrak v. Solitor:

A district court’s grant of summary judgment is reviewed under the law of the regional circuit. Profectus
Tech. LLC v. Huawei Techs. Co., 823 F.3d 1375, 1379 (Fed.
Cir. 2016). “The Third Circuit reviews grants and denials
of motions for summary judgment de novo, applying the
same standard of review as the district court.” MobileMedia Ideas LLC v. Apple Inc., 780 F.3d 1159, 1164
(Fed. Cir. 2015) (citing Gonzalez v. Sec’y of Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 678 F.3d 254, 257 (3d Cir. 2012)). When reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we view the facts in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all
inferences in that party’s favor. Gonzalez, 678 F.3d at 257.


Based on the evidence of record, there is a material dispute of fact as to whether the named inventors actually
possessed an ultrasonic RTL system at the time they filed
their patent application or whether they were “leaving it to
the . . . industry to complete an unfinished invention.” Novozymes A/S v. DuPont Nutrition Biosciences APS, 723
F.3d 1336, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (quoting Ariad, 598 F.3d
at 1353). Thus, the district court erred in granting summary judgment.

Separately, from University of Rochester v. Searle, 358 F.3d 916 (Fed. Cir. 2004) :

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Johns Hopkins Univ. v. Cellpro, Inc., 152 F.3d 1342, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 1998). We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, reapplying the summary judgment standard. Conroy v. Reebok Int'l, 14 F.3d 1570, 1575 (Fed. Cir. 1994). In contrast, "when a district court denies summary judgment, we review that decision with considerable deference to the court," and "will not disturb the trial court's denial ... unless we find that the court has indeed abused its discretion in so denying." SunTiger, Inc. v. Scientific Research Funding Group, 189 F.3d 1327, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 1999). Additionally, " [w]hen evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court views the record evidence through the prism of the evidentiary standard of proof that would pertain at a trial on the merits." Eli Lilly & Co. v. Barr Labs., Inc., 251 F.3d 955, 962 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("Barr"). In that process, we draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).


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