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Calif.: Medical Device Manufacturer Wins Trade Secrets Lawsuit 

9/16/2013  By SHRM Online staff 

After a nearly eight-week trial in the Superior Court of California, a Santa Barbara jury Aug. 30, 2013, returned a defense verdict in favor of Sientra Inc., a medical device manufacturer, and its West Coast regional director of sales, Jeffrey Lewis, in a lawsuit brought by Mentor Worldwide LLC, a competitor of Sientra. Mentor had sought $27 million in damages, along with a permanent injunction removing Sientra’s breast implant products from the market.

The jury rejected Mentor’s claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with contract and prospective business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting the breach of duty of loyalty. Judge Thomas Anderle ruled that “the jury got it right” and denied Mentor’s request for permanent injunctive relief.

After Sientra’s receipt of Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its breast implant products in March 2012, Sientra hired 20 Mentor sales personnel including Lewis, who previously served as Mentor’s West Coast regional manager. Two weeks later, Mentor brought 13 lawsuits against its former employees in 10 different states. In seven of those lawsuits, Mentor sought injunctions to prevent the employees from working for Sientra. Mentor subsequently dismissed 11 of the 13 lawsuits. Shortly thereafter, Mentor filed the lawsuit in California against Sientra and Lewis.

According to law firm Proskauer, which represented the defendants, contributing to the ruling in favor of Sientra was the fact that Sientra adhered to a “clean hands” policy that prohibited each new hire from taking, disclosing or using Mentor property; barred each from soliciting or speaking to any Mentor employee about job opportunities at Sientra; and required the new hires to return or delete everything known to be in their possession that belonged to Mentor.

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