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MSC.Software Corporation v. Altair Engineering, Inc.

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

February 13, 2017

MSC.SOFTWARE CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTAIR ENGINEERING, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OVERRULING MSC'S OBJECTIONS (DOC. 1108) AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF SPECIAL MASTER (DOC. 1102) AND DENYING MSC'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE CHRISTOPHER VELLTURO (DOC. 993) [1]

          AVERN COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I.

         This is a business dispute tried to a jury. The Court set aside a jury's $26, 100, 000.00 verdict in favor of MSC and granted Altair a new trial on the issue of damages for breach of confidentiality/misappropriation of three MSC-owned technical trade secrets (TTS).

         Following the Court's ruling, the parties engaged in damages discovery which included the filing of expert reports. MSC filed a motion in limine to exclude the report and testimony of Dr. Christopher A. Vellturo (Doc. 993), Altair's damages expert. The Court referred the matter to the Special Master for a report and recommendation (Doc.

         1010). The Special Master recommends that the motion be denied. (Doc. 1102). MSC objects. (Doc. 1108). For the reasons that follow, MSC's objections will be overruled, the Special Master's report will be adopted and MSC's motion to exclude Vellturo will be denied.

         II.

         The matter has been fully and robustly briefed. The relevant papers are as follows:

Doc. 993 MSC's motion to exclude Vellturo
Doc. 1010 Order of reference to Special Master
Doc. 1020 Altair's response
Doc. 1087 MSC's reply
Doc. 1087 Altair's surreply
Doc. 1102 Special Master's Report and Recommendation[2]
Doc. 1108 MSC's objections
Doc. 1109 Altair's response
Doc. 1156 MSC's reply

         In addition, the record contains Vellturo's report (Ex. 1 to Doc. 993) and supplemental expert report (Ex. H to Doc. 1020).

         III.

         A district court must conduct a de novo review of the parts of a special master's report and recommendation to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The district “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part the findings or recommendations” of a special master.” Id.

         The Special Master set forth the proper legal framework for deciding the motion:

A qualified expert may testify if “(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” Fed.R.Evid. 702.
The Rule requires the district court to act as a gatekeeper to “ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). That standard applies not only to scientific testimony but to all expert testimony. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999). The reliability inquiry is a flexible one; “whether Daubert's specific factors are, or are not, reasonable measures of reliability in a particular case is a matter that the law grants the trial judge broad latitude to determine.” Id. at 153. "[T]he Daubert Court has instructed the courts that they are not to be concerned with the reliability of the conclusions generated by valid methods, principles and reasoning.... If the principles, methodology and reasoning are scientifically valid then it follows that the inferences, assertions and conclusions derived therefrom are scientifically valid as well." Greenwell v. Boatwright, 184 F.3d 492, 497 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing U.S. v. Bonds, 12 F.3d 540, 556 (6th Cir. 1993).
“Daubert and Rule 702 are safeguards against unreliable or irrelevant opinions, not guarantees of correctness.” I4i Ltd. P'ship v. Microsoft Corp., 598 F.3d 831, 854 (Fed. Cir. 2010) aff'd 131 S.Ct. 2238 (2011). “When the methodology is sound . . . disputes about the degree of relevance or accuracy may go to the testimony's weight, but not its admissibility.” Id. at 852. “Perceived flaws in an expert's opinion go to weight only if they fall within the accepted norms of the discipline and have a non-speculative basis in fact.” Multimatic, Inc. v. Faurecia Interior Systems, USA, Inc., 358 Fed.Appx. 643, 654 (6th Cir. 2009). When parties take different approaches, “the relative strengths and weaknesses may be exposed at trial or attacked during cross-examination. Apple Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 757 F.3d 1286, 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2014). But, expert testimony that is not grounded in “sufficient ...

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