United States District Court, D. Delaware
HONORABLE LEONARD P. STARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Court held a six-day jury trial in this antitrust case in
October 2017. (See D.I. 553-59) ("Trial
Tr.") At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned
a verdict in favor of Defendant Plantronics, Inc.
("Plantronics"). (D.I. 534) Plaintiff, GN Netcom,
Inc. ("GN") has moved for a new trial based on the
Court's handling of issues relating to Plantronics'
spoliation of evidence and the Court's decision not to
admit evidence of a purportedly negative aspect of
Plantronics' relationship with the federal government.
(D.I. 545) Plantronics has moved to recover a portion of the
attorney's fees it incurred in preparing a defense to
GN's state-law claim for tortious interference with
prospective business relations. (D.I. 547)
reviewed the parties' briefing (see D.I. 546,
548, 560, 562, 563, 564) on their respective motions, as well
as the materials submitted in relation to those motions, and
having presided over trial (and the preceding five years of
extensive pretrial litigation),  IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that the parties' motions (D.I. 545,
547) are DENIED.
New Trial Motion
moves for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(a), which provides in pertinent part, "The
court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the
issues - and to any party - as follows:... after a jury
trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore
been granted in an action at law in federal court." New
trials are commonly granted where "the jury's
verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, and a
new trial must be granted to prevent a miscarriage of
justice, " where newly-discovered evidence exists that
would likely alter the outcome of the trial, where
"improper conduct by an attorney or the court unfairly
influenced the verdict, " or where the jury's
verdict was "facially inconsistent."
Zarow-Smith v. N.J. Transit Rail Operations, 953
F.Supp. 581, 584-85 (D.N.J. 1997).
decision to grant or deny a new trial is committed to the
sound discretion of the district court. See Allied Chem.
Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 36 (1980);
Olefins Trading, Inc. v. Han Yang Chem Corp., 9 F.3d
282, 289 (3d Cir. 1993) (reviewing "district court's
grant or denial of a new trial motion" under "abuse
of discretion" standard). Although the standard for
grant of a new trial is less rigorous than the standard for
grant of judgment as a matter of law - in that the court need
not view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict winner -ordinarily a new trial should only be granted
"where a miscarriage of justice would result if the
verdict were to stand, " the verdict "cries out to
be overturned, " or the verdict "shocks [the]
conscience." Williamson v. Consol Rail Corp.,
926 F.2d 1344, 1352-53 (3d Cir. 1991).
seeks a new trial based on its contention that the Court
committed prejudicial errors of law. (See, e.g.,
D.I. 546 at 9-10) Resolving a new trial motion predicated on
such grounds requires a determination of "whether an
error was in fact committed" and, if so, "whether
that error was so prejudicial that denial of a new trial
would be inconsistent with substantial justice."
Finch v. Hercules, Inc., 941 F.Supp. 1395, 1414 (D.
Del. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted);
see also Goodman v. Pa. Turnpike Comm'n, 293
F.3d 655, 676 (3d Cir. 2002) ("A motion for a new trial
should be granted where substantial errors occurred in
admission or rejection of evidence.").
particular, GN contends the Court erred, and prejudiced
GN's substantial rights, in two specific ways: (1) with
respect to spoliation, by providing the jury a permissive
adverse instruction, rather than a dispositive sanction, and
"present[ing] a sanitized version of facts regarding
Plantronics' spoliation that vastly ignored how egregious
its misconduct was and how detrimental the consequences were
on GN's case" (D.I. 546 at 15); and (2) refusing to
admit evidence of the General Services Administration's
("GSA") issuance of a Notice of Proposed Debarment
to Plantronics, which was based on GSA's review of this
Court's opinion imposing sanctions on Plantronics for its
spoliation of evidence (id. at 15-19). The Court
concludes that GN has failed to show that either of these are
errors of law that affected GN's substantial rights.
first purported legal error GN points to is the Court's
handling at trial of issues relating to Plantronics'
spoliation of evidence. Among other things, GN faults the
Court for not entering a dispositive sanction, prohibiting GN
from presenting to the jury "core facts" relating
to the spoliation, and including and omitting evidence from
the "Facts" the Court read to the jury that GN
believed should or should not have been before the jury.
(See, e.g., D.I. 546 at 10-14)
Court does not believe it committed legal error with respect
to its handling of spoliation and sanctions. As Plantronics
To say that much ink has been spilled over the issue of
spoliation would be an understatement. Even excluding the
present briefing, there have been six rounds of briefing
related to the issue of spoliation, with more than 200 pages
of briefs, more than 1, 700 pages of supporting appendices
and declarations, six hearings, and three Opinions and Orders
by the Court.
562 at 3-4) (internal footnotes omitted) Along the way the
Court held an evidentiary hearing and heard repeated
arguments about spoliation, sanctions, and how to present
these issues to the jury. (See, e.g., D.I. 385, 507,
the Court will admit that preserving both parties' rights
to a fair trial was a challenging endeavor, the Court
continues to believe it managed to do so without committing
legal error. The Court incorporates by reference all of its
prior analysis with respect to spoliation, sanctions, and how
these issues were to be handled at trial.
event, even if the Court had committed legal error, there is
no basis to find that any such error substantially prejudiced
GN. Bearing in mind the totality of the evidence that was
admitted (both with regard to the substantive dispute and the
spoliation issue), and comparing that to the relatively
limited additional spoliation-related evidence GN contends
the jury should have heard, any error in how the Court
handled the spoliation issue at trial was harmless.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 61 ("Unless justice requires
otherwise, no error in admitting or excluding evidence - or
any other error by the court or a party - is ground for
granting a new trial... [or] for ...