Stryker sued orthopedics rival Biomet last year, accusing it of a scheme to poach reps and business from Stryker in Louisiana and New York. Christopher Ridgeway and Richard Steitzer allegedly conspired with Biomet in the scheme, according to the September 2013 lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan. Steitzer quit in June 2013 to work for Biomet; Stryker fired Ridgeway Sept. 10 of that year, according to the lawsuit, after discovering that he was allegedly running a pair of medical supply businesses on the side.
"Over the past 2 weeks, Stryker uncovered an ill-conceived and long-planned scheme by Biomet, using Stryker representatives in both New York (Steitzer) and Louisiana (Ridgeway), to erode Stryker’s customer relationships and raid sales teams from Stryker’s Neuro Spine ENT business unit and craniomaxillofacial division. Complete with secret code words, Biomet’s scheme involved Ridgeway and Steitzer as proxies, while still Stryker employees [emphasis theirs], to intentionally damage Stryker and sabotage its ability to compete in a highly competitive marketplace," according to the lawsuit.
Stryker also accused Steitzer of lying about his role at Biomet, saying he accepted severance payments pegged to his agreement not to work for a competing business at Biomet.
"Stryker discovered that not only had Steitzer misappropriated Stryker’s trade secrets and disclosed those trade secrets to Biomet, but Steitzer was further breaching his non-competition and non-solicitation agreement by soliciting and moving Stryker’s business to Biomet. This conduct is even more egregious insomuch as Stryker had, between June and present, been paying Steitzer to sit on the sidelines, per one of the terms contained in the non-compete agreement," according to the lawsuit.
Steitzer and Biomet asked Judge Robert Bell to enforce an oral settlement they allege was reached between their lawyer, Elizabeth Herrington of McDermott Will & Emery, and Stryker attorney Jason Stiehl of Seyfarth Shaw. Herrington claimed that Stiehl made an offer to settle the matter with Biomet during a telephone call last October, according to court documents.
But the judge found that Steitzer and Biomet failed to prove that an agreement was reached, according to the documents.
"In her reply brief, Herrington has not contradicted Steihl’s assertion that she initiated the settlement discussion, nor has she contradicted his assertion that they also discussed Stryker’s desire for assurances regarding Steitzer’s use of Stryker’s confidential information. The emails that followed the telephone conversation do not add any information as to the terms discussed, nor do they tend to reflect that Stryker made a firm offer. When Herrington asked on October 15 if they could ‘get this done’ and dismiss Biomet, Stiehl responded, ‘Let me get back with the client,’ and ‘let me discuss internally’ and then he would get back to her. Despite his indication that he needed to confer with his clients, Herrington wrote back before hearing from Stiehl to say that Biomet had accepted the deal. Although she indicated on October 15 that her in-house person was speaking with Steitzer, she did not indicate that Steitzer had accepted the deal," Bell wrote. "Given the lack of specificity as to whether there was an offer, what was offered, and who was accepting, the court concludes that Steitzer and Biomet have not met their burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that an agreement had been reached as to all material terms."
In a separate ruling yesterday, Bell also denied Ridgeway’s bids to bar communications from Stryker, dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and to sever and remove his case to a federal court in Louisiana.