Judge Joseph Kalin had sharp criticism for PMC Inc. related to its recent lawsuit against former executive Paul Winkler.
"The evidence reasonably suggested that [PMC] plaintiffs acted in bad faith in pursuing this litigation in anger over the exodus of its valued employees and in an attempt to stifle fair competition," wrote Kalin, the California Superior Court judge who presided over PMC Inc. vs. Paul Winkler.
"The claim was devoid of evidentiary support. Plaintiffs persisted in litigating their claim when they knew it was unfounded," Kalin wrote.
Winkler's side in the suit can recover lawyer's fees relating to the trade-secret-misappropriation cause of action, Kalin ruled Feb. 22.
"It was predominantly a trade secrets case," Jeffrey Kramer, a Los Angeles lawyer representing Winkler, said by telephone. The recovery of filing fees, deposition costs and related expenses will be "a fairly large number" to be determined in coming weeks.
The PMC-Winkler trials began June 26 and Nov. 1 in Los Angeles with the second verdict being returned Dec. 27. No damages were awarded to PMC.
The lawyer who headed PMC's legal team noted that the jury found validity in five claims against four defendants and a breach of contract against Paul Winkler.
"What the judge says is not the issue," said Louis R. Miller, a Los Angeles lawyer. He declined to comment on the order.
"We fully expect ... the appellate court to enter a judgment for $20 million," representing what PMC believes it is owed for a lost opportunity to sell the business, Miller said in a Feb. 23 telephone interview.
In mid-1998, Paul Winkler left his position as president of PMC's Winkler Forming Inc. unit in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and established Paul Winkler Plastics Corp. in Buena Park, Calif., with several former Winkler Forming employees. Both businesses extrude and thermoform amorphous PET sheet.
Those employees "were not restricted from working for a company competing with their former employer," the Superior Court judge wrote. "They were permitted to use their skill, knowledge and experience in their new employment. The evidence presented at trial could not reasonably be interpreted as constituting a trade secret misappropriation by any of the defendants."
As part of the ruling, Kalin ordered Winkler Forming to pay James Longstreth's withheld vacation pay of $2,789 plus interest, which amounted to $735 as of Feb. 22. Longstreth was one of the employees joining Paul Winkler Plastics.
"We feel completely vindicated by the judge's ruling," Kramer said.