Brightview Grp. v. Teeters

Decision Date08 February 2021
Docket NumberCivil Case No. SAG-19-2774
PartiesBRIGHTVIEW GROUP, LP Plaintiff, v. ANDREW M. TEETERS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Brightview Group, LP ("Brightview") filed this lawsuit against its former employees, Andrew M. Teeters and Ross T. Dingman, and an entity created by Teeters and Dingman, Monarch Communities, LLC ("Monarch") (collectively "Defendants") in September, 2019. Brightview alleges Defendants misappropriated trade secrets in violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 ("DTSA") and the Maryland Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("MUTSA") and unfairly competed with Brightview. ECF 38 ¶¶ 106-20, 129-35. Additionally, Brightview alleges that Teeters and Dingman "breached their fiduciary duties by usurping corporate opportunities" from Brightview. Id. ¶¶ 121-28. Discovery is now complete, and both parties have submitted Motions to Exclude some of the opposing side's proffered expert witness testimony. ECF 159; ECF 162. I have reviewed the motions, responses in opposition, and replies and exhibits attached thereto. ECF 159; ECF 173; ECF 179; ECF 162; ECF 176; ECF 180. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion, ECF 159, will be granted in part and denied in part, and Brightview's motion, ECF 162, will be granted in part and denied in part.1


Brightview develops and operates senior living communities. Teeters and Dingman, who formerly held high-level positions at Brightview, are accused of using Brightview's documents, containing confidential, proprietary and/or trade secret information, to form their own senior living community development business, Monarch. Brightview alleges Teeters and Dingman began working on this new venture during their employment at Brightview. See ECF 38.

On February 21, 2020, after approximately three months of expedited discovery, this Court granted Brightview's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. ECF 91; see ECF 95 (Memorandum Opinion). Specifically, this Court enjoined defendants "from accessing, using, disclosing, or disseminating" sixty-five Brightview documents. ECF 91 ¶ 2. The parties have since conducted months of formal discovery, including the exchange of expert reports and the depositions of expert witnesses. Defendants now ask the Court to exclude the expert testimony of Marylee P. Robinson, while Brightview asks the Court to exclude or limit the expert testimony of Ronald G. Quintero and Michael Baldwin.

A. Marylee P. Robinson's Testimony

Marylee P. Robinson was retained by Brightview "to opine about the value of Brightview's intellectual property and to determine the amount of damages owed by the Defendants in the event they are found liable." ECF 173-2 at 3 ("Expert Report on Value and Damages"). After issuingan initial report on May 1, 2020, Robinson subsequently issued two supplemental reports on May 26, 2020 and July 20, 2020. ECF 173-3; ECF 173-4. In the reports, Robinson describes different types of damages that could potentially be available to Brightview if Defendants are found liable. Id. Robinson also produced a Rebuttal Expert Report in response to Quintero's report on August 31, 2020. ECF 173-5. Defendants ask the Court to exclude the reports produced by Robinson from the record and to preclude her from testifying at trial under Federal Rule of Evidence 702.

B. Ronald G. Quintero's Testimony

Ronald G. Quintero was retained by Defendants to "provide expert opinions pertaining to the three reports . . . submitted in this matter by Marylee P. Robinson." ECF 162-2 ¶ 1. In his report, issued on August 17, 2020, Quintero criticizes Robinson's findings and concludes her reports "lack any valid, reliable, or nonspeculative quantification of damages sustained by the Plaintiffs, or of improper financial benefits realized by the Defendants, in this matter." Id. ¶ 77. Brightview requests that the Court exclude all of Quintero's anticipated testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702.

C. Michael Baldwin's Testimony

Michael Baldwin was retained by Defendants to "opine upon the extent to which certain Brightview materials constitute proprietary information known only to Brightview as opposed to information generally known . . . as well as to opine upon the approximate cost of acquiring such materials in the marketplace." ECF 162-5 ¶ I.A. Baldwin specifically offers opinions on twenty-three different documents in his June 1, 2020 expert report. Id. ¶¶ VI.A-E. In 2011, Baldwin was sued by his former employer, HealthTrust, LLC, for allegedly violating the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act. See HealthTrust, LLC v. Baldwin, No. 8:11-cv-02719-DDM-EAJ (M.D. Fla. dismissed July 16, 2012); ECF 180-4 at 351 (Baldwin Depo.). At deposition, Baldwin refused toanswer Brightview's questions about this prior litigation. ECF 180-4 at 351-53. Brightview therefore contends that Baldwin should be barred from offering any testimony in this case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1). Alternatively, Brightview asks the Court to exclude a portion of Baldwin's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702.


Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony. A qualified expert may give testimony 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. In essence, the trial court must ensure the proposed expert testimony "both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993). In Daubert, the Supreme Court provides five nonexhaustive factors a court may weigh in making this assessment: (1) "whether a theory or technique . . . can be (and has been) tested," (2) "whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication," (3) "the known or potential rate of error," (4) "the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique's operation," and (5) whether the technique or theory has gained "general acceptance." 509 U.S. at 592-94; Pugh v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., 361 F. App'x 448, 452 (4th Cir. 2010). However, ultimately, the inquiry is "a flexible one" and relevant factors can vary with the needs of each case. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 594.

For the proffered evidence to be sufficiently reliable it "must be derived using scientific or other valid methods" and not based on mere "belief or speculation." Casey v. Geek SquadSubsidiary Best Buy Stores, L.P., 823 F. Supp. 2d 334, 340 (D. Md. 2011) (first quoting Oglesby v. Gen. Motors Corp., 190 F.3d 244, 250 (4th Cir. 1999); then quoting Bryte ex rel. Bryte v. Am. Household, Inc., 429 F.3d 469, 477 (4th Cir. 2005)). The court's analysis focuses on experts' methods, not their conclusions, but an expert opinion that relies on "assumptions which are speculative and not supported by the record," is inadmissible. Tyger Const. Co. Inc. v. Pensacola Const. Co., 29 F.3d 137, 142 (4th Cir. 1994); see also Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146 (1997) ("[N]othing in either Daubert or the Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to admit opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered."). For the proffered opinion to be relevant, it "must be 'sufficiently tied to the facts of the case that it will aid the jury in resolving a factual dispute.'" Casey, 823 F. Supp. 2d at 340 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591). Expert testimony "is presumed to be helpful unless it concerns matters within the everyday knowledge and experience of a lay juror." Anderson v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. GJH-2615, 2017 WL 2189508, at *4 (D. Md. May 16, 2017) (quoting Kopf v. Skyrm, 993 F.2d 374, 377 (4th Cir. 1993)).

The proponent of the expert testimony bears the burden of establishing admissibility, or "coming forward with evidence from which the trial court could determine that the evidence is admissible under Daubert." Anderson v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. GJH-14-2615, 2017 WL 2189508, at *3 (D. Md. May 16, 2017) (quoting Main St. Am. Grp. v. Sears, Roebuck, & Co., No. CIV JFM-08-3292, 2010 WL 956178, at *3 (D. Md. Mar. 11, 2010)); see also Casey, 823 F. Supp. 2d at 340; Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592 n. 10 (explaining admissibility must be established by a "preponderance of proof").

In determining the admissibility of expert testimony, the court considers two "guiding, and sometimes competing, principles." Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 261 (4th Cir. 1999). On the one hand, Rule 702 was "intended to liberalize the introduction of relevant expert evidence," and the court need not ensure the expert's proposed testimony is "irrefutable or certainly correct." Id. (explaining that admissible expert testimony can still be vigorously tested before the jury by "cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof" (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596)). On the other hand, "due to the difficulty of evaluating their testimony, expert witnesses have the potential to 'be both powerful and quite misleading.'" Id. (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595). The court must determine whether the disputed expert testimony "has greater potential to mislead than to enlighten." Id. If so, the testimony should be excluded. Id.; see also Casey, 823 F. Supp. 2d at 340 (noting such testimony would be barred by Federal Rule of Evidence 403).


The Court first determines whether Robinson's reports and Quintero's rebuttal...

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