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Ludeca, Inc. v. Alignment and Condition Monitoring, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

July 17, 2019

Ludeca, Inc., Petitioner,
v.
Alignment and Condition Monitoring, Inc., et al., Respondents.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          A Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Thomas J. Rebull, Judge.Lower Tribunal No. 16-7784

          A Case of Original Jurisdiction -- Mandamus.

          Gray Robinson, P.A., and Frank A. Shepherd; K&L Gates LLP, Carol C. Lumpkin, Jonathan B. Morton, and Hayden P. O'Byrne, for petitioner.

          Benson Mucci & Weiss, P.L. and Matthew D. Cohen (Coral Springs); Griesing Law, LLC, and Julie Negovan (Philadelphia, PA), for respondents.

          Before SALTER, FERNANDEZ, and MILLER, JJ.

          OPINION

          MILLER, J.

         Petitioner, Ludeca, Inc., the defending party and counterclaimant in the proceedings below, has filed an original petition for writ of mandamus seeking to compel the lower tribunal to halt the imminently scheduled trial in a declaratory relief action involving proprietary rights to customer data. In furtherance of its entitlement to relief, petitioner asserts that the trial court failed to strictly adhere to the requirements of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.440. Petitioner further seeks a writ of certiorari to quash an order severing its compulsory trade secret misappropriation counterclaim from the primary action. Petitioner contends the bifurcation of the interwoven claims inflicts harm irremediable on direct appeal and constitutes a departure from the essential requirements of law. For the reasons elucidated below, we grant relief.

         FACTS

         The complaint in this case alleges, in substance, that for well over twenty years, petitioner served as the sole authorized distributor in the United States of certain industrial alignment and monitoring products produced by a German manufacturer, Pruftechnik. Respondents, Alignment and Condition Monitoring, Inc., Lazertech, LLC, L & V Diagnostics, Inc., Shoreline Alignment & Vibration, LLC, and Solute, LLC, were independent sales representatives engaged in selling Pruftechnik's products to various consumers. Each completed consumer transaction generated a compendium of valuable customer data.

          Between 2006 and 2016, a series of occurrences, including the initiation of litigation in a German tribunal, eventually divested petitioner of its exclusive distributor status and paved the way for Pruftechnik to directly and indirectly peddle its own products within the United States.

         In 2016, respondents filed the instant suit seeking a judicial imprimatur of their right to use the compilation of customer data acquired pursuant to the sales transactions. By late 2017, petitioner had answered the complaint and the pleadings were closed.

         On April 25, 2019, following a case management conference, the lower court issued an order scheduling trial for approximately two months later. Thereafter, petitioner sought leave to file a counterclaim and, simultaneously, requested a continuance of the trial. The court convened a hearing and granted leave to amend, but denied the motion for continuance. The following day, petitioner filed an emergency motion to remove the case from the trial docket contending the reopening of the pleadings rendered the case no longer at issue. Respondents then moved to bifurcate the declaratory relief action from the misappropriation of trade secrets counterclaim. ...


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