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Date: 05-19-2023

Case Style:

Valvetech, Inc. v. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc.

Case Number: 17-CV-6788

Judge: Frank P. Geraci, Inc.

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Erie County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney:

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Description: Buffalo, New York commercial litigation lawyer represented Plaintiff and Defendant in breach of contract and trade secrets dispute.

A jury trial in this matter. The parties have filed over a dozen motions in limine. The Court resolves the motions below. The parties must bear in mind, however, that they “have no inherent right to an in limine ruling and such rulings are viewed as a preliminary opinion given to allow the parties to formulate their trial strategy and allow the Court to manage the trial in the most efficient way possible.” Horn v. Med. Marijuana, Inc., No. 15-CV-701, 2021 WL 1700257, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 29, 2021). “The trial court is not bound by an in limine ruling and can change its determination during the
trial where sufficient facts have developed to warrant the change or even if nothing unexpected happens at trial.” Id.

Valvetech's main facility is located in Upstate New York, midway between Rochester and Syracuse. It is equipped for in-house production, assembly, and testing. This 20,000 square foot facility consists of the following:

Engineering Department
Development Laboratories
Manufacturing Department
Quality Control Department
Assembly Department
Clean Rooms
Test Laboratories

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to its space, missile defense, strategic, tactical missile and armaments customers throughout the world. Aerojet Rocketdyne's strategic and tactical missile programs defend America, our troops and our allies.

See, e.g., 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.”); GPNE Corp. v. Apple, Inc., No. 12-CV-2885, 2014 WL 1494247, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 16, 2014)...
Valvetech, Inc. v. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. (W.D. N.Y. 2023)

Ruling on these issues is deferred until trial. Rule 703 provides:

An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value in helping the jury evaluate the opinion substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.

Fed. R. Ev. 703. “[T]he purpose of the rule is to align the law with the extrajudicial ‘practice of experts' who may base their opinions on technically inadmissible evidence, such as unauthenticated x-rays and oral reports by nurses.” United States v. Scop, 846 F.2d 135, 143 (2d Cir. 1988).

. “The First Amendment affords the public a qualified right of access to a wide array of judicial proceedings in both criminal and civil matters.” In re Demetriades, 58 F.4th 37, 47 (2d Cir. 2023). “[T]he power to close a courtroom where proceedings are being conducted is one to be very seldom exercised, and even then only with the greatest caution, under urgent circumstances, and for very clear and apparent reasons.” Id. (internal ellipsis omitted). “The First Amendment right of access is always qualified,” however. N.Y.C. Liberties Union v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 684 F.3d 286, 303 (2d Cir. 2012). “Just as a government may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions upon the use of its streets in the interest of such objectives as the free flow of traffic, so may a trial judge, in the interest of the fair administration of justice, impose reasonable limitations on access to a trial.” Id. The justification for denying access “must be a weighty one,” and “[c]losed proceedings, although not absolutely precluded, must be rare and only for cause shown.” Id.

As a general matter, the Second Circuit has opined that “exclusion of the public in whole or in part has been found constitutionally acceptable where closed proceedings were deemed necessary to preserve order, to protect the defendant or witnesses, or to maintain the confidentiality of certain information.” United States ex rel. Lloyd v. Vincent, 520 F.2d 1272, 1274 (2d Cir. 1975) (emphasis added); see also Stamicarbon, N.V. v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 506 F.2d 532, 539 (2d Cir. 1974) (permitting trial judge to restrict access to criminal contempt proceedings when testimony would reveal trade secrets). Consistent with this rule, courts have been willing to close court


proceedings if public access would “harm a litigant's competitive standing,” Woven Elecs. Corp. v. Advance Grp., Inc., 930 F.2d 913 (1991) (4th Cir. 1991) (table op.), so long as there is a “sufficient threat of irreparable harm.” Publicker Indus., Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059, 1071 (3d Cir. 1984).

While the Court acknowledges ValveTech's legitimate concerns, it is unprepared to conclude that any “presentation of the trade secrets and spacecraft designs at issue in this case” will necessarily cause a risk of irreparable, improper dissemination sufficient to warrant closure of the courtroom. ECF No. 227-1 at 1. The likelihood of that risk will depend on several factors, including the nature of the information discussed, the level of specificity at which the information is discussed, the persons in attendance, etc. That analysis is better undertaken at trial. Nevertheless, the parties should meet and confer about a mutually agreeable procedure for closure, should it be required.

Outcome: Motions in limine ruled upon by the Court.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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