Update (September 26, 2016): We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of my original post, below, and, in mid-November, if Sorin and St. Jude do not meanwhile settle their dispute, there will be a jury trial with a Faegre Baker Daniels team on one side and a Dorsey & Whitney trial team on the other — that is, two of the biggest and best Minnesota business litigation teams going toe to toe before U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.).
Last March, Judge Tunheim laid out the facts in an order in large part denying St. Jude’s motion for summary judgment (granting it as to only one of many of Sorin’s claims). He also rejected Sorin’s attempt to throw out an expert witness offered by St. Jude.
As Judge Tunheim’s memorandum portrays it, Sorin went through some very challenging times in the cardiac medical device business around 2011-2015. Sales in Florida, however, were a sunny spot in Sorin’s otherwise inclement business environment. St. Jude was roughly in the opposite situation. Business was good but penetration in the Florida market was bad.
You see where this is going.
While one Sorin salesperson was working at Sorin but negotiating terms with his future employer, St. Jude, he was submitting thousands of dollars of expense reports for meals with Florida surgeons to Sorin, but his sales of Sorin devices to these same doctors dried up…. As set forth on page 15 of Judge Tunheim’s order, it seems that this Sorin salesperson quit Sorin and might have had a hand in the sale of a competing St. Jude device (a mitral mechanical valve) even before his official start-date at St. Jude.
St. Jude has provided some internal documents that suggest that St. Jude intended to honor [the former Sorin sales guy’s] non-compete; however, aside from documents relating to [his]official job title and business cards, they all come from communications made after the present action was filed on September 26, 2014. (here at p. 17)
But St. Jude’s defenses emerge from Judge Tunheim’s order. First, it seems clear that St. Jude made efforts to avoid breaching of the Sorin non-compete agreement and, maybe more importantly (and more convincingly), it seems that St. Jude will argue that Sorin’s downturn in business was due to Sorin’s bad business rather than St. Jude’s and the departing employees’ alleged misconduct.
For purely selfish reasons, I hope the case does not settle. Watching large companies, represented by excellent lawyers, hand over a blank check to a jury would be a welcome real-life drama we’d get to watch from the cheap seats.
Original post (October, 2015): I have recently posted quite a bit about St. Jude’s lawsuit against Mr. Grubiak in which St. Jude plays the role of betrayed employer and Mr. Grubiak, the black-hatted turn-coat (from St. Jude’s perspective).
Imagine my surprise to stumble across Sorin v. St. Jude, wherein Sorin plays the role of betrayed employer and St. Jude, the shameless poacher (from Sorin’s perspective). Mag. Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes, U.S. District Court (D. Minn.) has recently allowed Sorin to amend its complaint to add a claim for punitive damages. This is rather rare in Minnesota case law.
There are some juicy tid-bits in the opinion such as a $1,200 meal tab for the courtship of “several” Tampa physicians.
Query: wouldn’t you much rather believe that your heart doctors are picking their medical devices to implant into you based on their belief that they have outfitted you with the best device rather than based on their attachment to the device salesperson and a $1,000+ dinner tab? (I suppose it is possible that there is a medical device salesperson whose technical knowledge and expertise is worth as much or more than the particular device sold…Really???)