CHICAGO — Both Caterpillar and the UK-based engineering firm that accused the Illinois-based heavy equipment maker of stealing its trade secrets have appealed, after a federal judge refused to alter a jury's verdict, in which the British engineering firm was awarded more than $90 million.
On March 31, U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood refused post-trial motions, including requests from Caterpillar to reduce the damages award or grant a new trial, stemming from the verdict in a 2011 trade secrets case between Miller UK and Caterpillar.
In that original case, a jury awarded Miller more than $90 million dollars in damages, after Miller sued Caterpillar for a contract breach and for misappropriating trade secrets relating to the company's design for its quick coupler, known as the “Bug,” which, according to the complaint, negates the need for a manual safety pin. Miller alleged Caterpillar, after working with Miller for a time, took the design and used it to create and marekt its own version of the quick decoupler.
Caterpillar filed defamation counterclaims against Miller, for which Miller was ordered to pay Caterpillar $1 million in damages.
Following that decision, Caterpillar and Miller both filed motions.
Caterpillar requested a judgment as a matter of law. If this were not granted, it requested a new trial. Caterpillar also requested a reduction in the amount of the awarded damages.
The motion filed by Miller asked for a judgment on Caterpillar's successful counterclaim suit. They also requested a reduction in the damages awarded. Separately, Miller added a motion wherein the court would issue some clarification on the disparity between the amount awarded to Miller by the jury and the judgments rendered.
In her ruling, Judge Wood noted several times that, while each party made a perhaps compelling case for their sides, the cases they cited as precedent were not lined up with Illinois law.
Judge Wood stated that she would “follow the lead” established in Republic Tobacco Co. v. N. Atl. Trading Co., which held that “jury awards for per se defamation claims - though inherently speculative because of the absence of any requirement of proof of damages - are entitled to some deference but cannot rise to a level that would be considered substantial.” In doing so, she left in place the damages awarded to Caterpillar.
Judge Wood found Caterpillar's experts did not sufficiently prove Miller had improperly arrived at its calculation of losses from the alleged trade secrets theft. They also did not provide any previous case decisions that would have caused this case award to be reviewed, the judge said.
The judge did agree to Miller’s request for a final judgment order that would include within it a more detailed description of the jury’s findings. Caterpillar did not object to this decision, but requested that final order come in a different form.
Both Caterpillar and Miller filed appeals with the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in May.
Caterpillar was represented in the case by attorneys with the firms of Baker & Hostetler, with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and Howrey LLP, of Washington, D.C.
Court records indicated Miller received outside support to fund its lawsuit against Caterpillar from third-party litigation funding ventures, identified as Juris Capital LLC, of Chicago, and Arena Consulting, of Highland Park. Juris and Arena agreed to fund the litigation in exchange for a portion of the final judgment.
Miller was represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago.