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American Furukawa, Inc. v. Hossain

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 26, 2016

American Furukawa, Inc., Plaintiff,
Isthihar Hossain and HT Wire & Cable Americas, LLC, Defendants.



          HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Court Judge.

         I. Introduction and Procedural Background

         On September 19, 2014, American Furukawa, Inc. (“Furukawa” or “Plaintiff”), filed this action against former employee, Isthihar Hossain (“Defendant Hossain” or “Hossain”). See Dkt. No. 1. On September 16, 2015, Furukawa amended the Complaint to add another Defendant, HT Wire & Cable America, LLC (“HT Wire”). See Dkt. No. 65. In the Complaint, Furukawa alleges eight Counts: (I) violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030; (II) Fraud; (III) Breach of Contract; (IV) Breach of Fiduciary Duty; (V) Misappropriation of Trade Secrets under MICH. COMP. LAWS § 445.1902; (VI) Conversion; (VII) Tortious Interference; and (VIII) Civil Conspiracy. See Dkt. No. 1. Hossain and HT Wire (collectively, “Defendants”) moved to dismiss the action and defer to arbitration. See Dkt. No. 79. The Court denied that Motion on November 19, 2015. See Dkt. No. 97. On April 19, 2016, Plaintiff and Defendants moved for Summary Judgement. See Dkt. No. 117, 119. The Court granted Summary Judgment to the Defendants with respect to Count VI. The Court denied Summary Judgment to both sides with respect to Counts I-V, VII, and VIII. See Dkt. No. 138.

         Parties stipulated to waive their right to a jury trial. See Dkt. No. 144. A bench trial is set for November 11, 2016. Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's Motions in Limine [142] and Plaintiff's Supplemental Motions in Limine [158].

         II. Factual Background

         Furukawa is a supplier of advanced automotive technology, electronics and specialty products. Isthihar Hossain accepted employment with Furukawa in September, 2011 as a Power Systems Electrical Engineer.

         When Hossain began his employment with Furukawa, Furukawa asserts that Hossain agreed to abide by several of Furukawa's Policies, including Furukawa's policy on “Removable Media Use.” Furukawa also asserts that Hossain entered into an Invention Assignment & Secrecy Agreement (“Secrecy Agreement”) with Furukawa, which dictated that Hossain “will regard and preserve as confidential all trade secrets pertaining to the Company's business that have been or may be obtained by me by reason of my employment.” The Secrecy Agreement also dictated that Hossain would not “without prior authority from the company to do so, use for [his] own benefit or purposes, nor disclose to others, either during [his] employment or thereafter” any trade secrets pertaining to Furukawa's business.

         By 2014, Hossain became a Senior Production Manager. Hossain's position gave him access to Furukawa's intellectual property and other confidential information. On March 11, 2014, while he was still employed by Furukawa, Furukawa asserts that Hossain entered into an “Employment Agreement” with Heibei Huatong Wires & Cables Group Co., Ltd. (“Huatong”)-a competitor and supplier to Furukawa.

         On March 17, 2014, Hossain informed Furukawa he was unable to work due to a basketball injury. Notably, pursuant to his alleged Agreement with Huatong, Hossain was scheduled to begin his employment with Huatong on March 17, 2014. As a result of his reported injury, Hossain was granted a leave of absence, commencing March 18, 2014. As a condition for granting leave, Furukawa asserts that it instructed Hossain that he could not do any work for Furukawa while he was away. Despite the instructions to the contrary, Furukawa asserts that Hossain accessed information on his company laptop, copied Furukawa files, and sent them from his company email to his personal “gmail” account during his leave of absence.

         On March 20, 2014, Huatong announced that it would no longer sell Electrical Submersible Pump (“ESP”) cables and photovoltaic (“PV”) cables (collectively, the “Cables”) to the United States market, through Furukawa.

         On April 24, 2014, Hossain sent an email to Furukawa's Manager of Human Resources stating that his doctor had cleared him to return to work. On Monday, April 28, 2014, Hossain announced that he was resigning his employment, effective May 2, 2014. Furukawa accepted Hossain's resignation, effective April 29, 2014, and paid him through May 2, 2014.

         Despite his alleged Agreement with Huatong, when Hossain resigned, he allegedly indicated that he did not “have another job lined up or anything, ” but his “previous employer” had been contacting him, and he was “pretty sure” that he could get a job with them. Upon his departure from Furukawa, Hossain was asked to sign an “Employee Certification & Agreement on Termination, ” certifying that he had returned all property belonging to the Company, had complied with the Secrecy Agreement and would continue to abide by that Agreement. Hossain allegedly refused to sign.

         On or about May 12, 2014, Furukawa learned that Huatong had approached WTEC-one of Furukawa's customers-about buying cable from Huatong. On May 16, 2014, Furukawa received an email from WTEC regarding WTEC's “compound” requirements and “payment terms.” The email from WTEC was addressed to Hossain at his former Furukawa email address. On May 30, 2014, WTEC confirmed that Hossain was acting as Huatong's agent with respect to the sales negotiations between WTEC and Huatong. On June 5, 2014, Furukawa received another email from WTEC, addressed to Hossain's Furukawa email address, purportedly asking Hossain to quote the price for several sets of cables.

         Furukawa sent a letter to Hossain on June 9, 2014, reminding him of his obligations under the Secrecy Agreement. In the letter, Furukawa demanded that Hossain immediately cease and desist from any further solicitation of cable business from WTEC or any other customer of Furukawa. Furukawa also sought assurances that Hossain would abide by his trade secret obligations, and would not use or disclose any trade secret information that he acquired during his employment with Furukawa. Hossain purportedly refused to comply with this request. Furukawa attempted to negotiate with Hossain to resolve the dispute. Throughout the negotiations, Hossain purportedly maintained that he had returned all property belonging to Furukawa and fully complied with the Secrecy Agreement. After looking into the actions of Hossain, Furukawa brought the instant action pursuant to the CFAA and Michigan law.

         III. ...

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