I posted on this recent verdict briefly last month, but wanted to add a little more detail in light of Judge Bryson's recent postverdict rulings.
As readers know, Federal Circuit Judge Bill Bryson was in Marshall last month trying one of the cases he was assigned last fall, using Judge Gilstrap's courtroom. In that case, Versata Software, Inc. et al v. Internet Brands, Inc., 2:08-cv-00313-WCB, the jury found that the accused products did not infringe the asserted claims and that the claims were invalid. The jury also handed the defendants $2 million on their trade secret misappropriation counterclaims, and a finding that the plaintiff breached a confidentiality agreement, resulting on the one dollar in damages the defendant sought.
Last week, Judge Bryson issued a 22 page opinion setting forth the rationale for his ruling during trial excluding an e-mail. Judge Bryson began by noting that both the plaintiff and defendants are providers of website software and services to automobile manufacturers. Among Versata’s claims in the litigation were claims accusing Autodata of breach of contract and tortious interference with a prospective business relationship by misrepresenting to Chrysler Corporation the scope of a license that Autodata had from Versata.
At trial, Versata sought to introduce an e-mail sent by Versata employee to other Versata employees about a lunch meeting that was a significant issue at trial. The problem, Judge Bryson noted, was that the e-mail "consisted of hearsay, several layers deep." Initially he admitted the e-mail with a limiting instruction directing the jury not to consider it for the truth of any of its contents. "Later in the trial," however, Judge Bryson wrote, "it became clear that the relevance of the e-mail for non-hearsay purposes was marginal and the issue of what Autodata told Chrysler about its rights vis-à-vis Versata’s intellectual property was important. The Court therefore reconsidered its decision to admit the e-mail subject to a limiting instruction and instead ruled the e-mail inadmissible for all purposes." The plaintiff then offered it without a limiting instruction, and the Court excluded it.
Judge Bryson's opinion (did I mention it is 22 pages ?) sets forth a detailed analysis of his rationale for excluding the exhibit at trial under each of the plaintiff's proffered grounds: (1) business record (providing more information on the topic than most in the ordinary course of business, to borrow a phrase, will ever need); (2) present sense impression; and (3) state of mind. The Court also addressed concerns about the timing of its informing the jury of its decision.
If you ever wanted to know what being bludgeoned to death by a rule of evidence looks like, read this opinion. I will never look at a business record the same again, and I'll probably need counseling before I offer one. But seriously, if you're a rules junkie like me, this is one you may enjoy. Case 2:08-cv-00313-WCB Document 330 Filed 07/05/12.