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B&P Littleford, LLC v. Prescott Machinery, LLC

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

August 13, 2019




         On May 7, 2018, Plaintiff B&P Littleford, LLC (“B&P”) filed a complaint against Defendants Prescott Machinery, LLC (“Prescott”) and Ray Miller. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants misappropriated “confidential, proprietary, and other trade secret information” from Plaintiff. ECF No. 1 at PageID.1. On June 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to reopen discovery. The motion will be denied.



         According to its initial complaint, Plaintiff designs and manufactures “a wide variety of highly engineered mixers, dryers, extruders, compounders, kneaders, reaction vessels, Podbielniak Centrifuges, and centrifugal separation equipment for manufacturing applications.” ECF No. 1 at PageID.3. Defendant Miller was previously employed at B&P in various capacities, including as a board member and B&P's President and Chief Executive Officer. Id. at PageID.4. Miller's employment gave him access to B&P's confidential and trade secret information, including information related to the Mixer. Id. at PageID.5.

         In 2008, Miller terminated his employment with B&P. Id. As part of his termination, he entered into a confidential settlement and release agreement with Plaintiff in which he represented

Since July 31, 2008, [Miller] has not had and does not have physical possession of or access to any customer lists, software, records, manuals, equipment, drawings, blue prints, or confidential proprietary information of or about B&P, whether hard copy or electronic. Nor has Miller given any such materials or information to any other person for any purpose other than to advance the business interests of B&P.

Id. at PageID.6. Soon after terminating his employment with Plaintiff, Miller started the company Prescott Machinery, LLC. Id. He is its president.

         One of the products produced by Plaintiff is a 16 PVM Planetary Vertical Mixer (“Mixer”) that had been installed in the 1960s at the United States Navy's Surface Weapons Center at China Lake, California. Plaintiff developed the Mixer in order to “provide a high speed mixer with close tolerances to improve over other mixers in the marketplace.” Id. at PageID.7. In 2017, the Navy issued a Request for Proposal to “retrofit and overhaul the Mixer.” Id. Plaintiff submitted a response to the request, but the Navy awarded the contract (“China Lake contract”) to Prescott. A B&P vendor subsequently received copies of Prescott's drawings because the vendor was asked to supply parts for the China Lake contract. The vendor provided these drawings to Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that “[a] review of Prescott's drawings and schematics received from the vendor shows that B&P's confidential and trade secret technical drawings were used in Prescott's attempt to source parts for the Navy's contract.” Id. at PageID.8.

         On May 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed its complaint against Miller and Prescott. It contended that Defendants violated the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Michigan Uniform Trade Secrets Act and was liable for civil conspiracy and conversion. Plaintiff further alleged that Miller was liable for breach of contract, breach of the duty of loyalty and fiduciary duty, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff also contended that Prescott was liable for tortious interference with contractual relations.


         On October 16, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel. ECF No. 21. The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Morris who held a hearing on November 20, 2018. ECF No. 31. She granted the motion in part and denied it in part. During the hearing, she explained that discovery was limited to the scope of Plaintiff's complaint, specifically those drawings and trade secret information related to the project at issue in Plaintiff's complaint, the Mixer and the China Lake contract. During the hearing, Judge Morris held:

It's the single project and it's five drawings. I think that the scope of discovery should allow the plaintiff to seek information about both those things in the sense that plaintiff should not be limited to the five drawings, but rather any drawings or other information that was misappropriated by Miller to Prescott and how that happened, or how Prescott got it, whether it was through Miller or someone else, relating only to this project.

ECF No. 32 at PageID.650-651. Accordingly, the scope of discovery was limited to discovery related to the Mixer and ...

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