WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to weigh whether a judge who presided over a high-stakes trade secrets fight involving DuPont Co’s Kevlar product should have recused himself.
The high court’s action means that an appeals court ruling that threw out a $919.9 million jury verdict that DuPont won against Kolon Industries Inc and ordered a new trial stays intact.
South Korea-based Kolon had sought high court review over the judge recusal issue because the appeals court had left undisturbed various preliminary rulings that favored DuPont. Those findings will now remain binding in the case when it returns to the district court.
In its April ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia voided the September 2011 verdict against Kolon, saying the trial judge wrongly excluded evidence that was material to the South Korean company’s defense.
The court ordered that a new judge be assigned to the case on remand but declined to throw out the various early procedural decisions made by the removed judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Payne. Before he was appointed to the bench, Payne had been a partner in a law firm, now known as McGuireWoods, that represented DuPont in separate litigation.
A Richmond jury had awarded the damages after finding that Kolon had willfully and maliciously stolen 149 DuPont trade secrets relating to the latter’s Kevlar para-aramid fiber, used to make tires, fiber-optic cables and body armor.
DuPont began the litigation in February 2009, claiming that Michael Mitchell, a 24-year DuPont veteran, had taken proprietary information about Kevlar when he left in 2006 to start his own fiber business, and later shared it with Kolon.
The two related cases are Kolon Industries Inc v. DuPont, U.S. Supreme Court, Nos. 14-77 and 14-207.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham