Wright's Well Control Services, LLC v. Oceaneering International, Inc. et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 152 Motion to Continue trial. Thus, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) the Court will hold a conference with the parties on May 31, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. to enter a new scheduling order with specific patent-related deadlines Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 5/4/2017. (cg) Modified on 5/4/2017 (cg).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
WRIGHT’S WELL CONTROL
SECTION “R” (3)
ORDER AND REASONS
Plaintiff Wright’s Well Control Services, LLC’s moves to continue trial
in this matter, currently scheduled for July 17, 2017.1 For the following
reasons, plaintiff’s motion is granted.
This patent infringement, breach of contract, and unfair competition
case arises out of a dispute between Wright’s Well Control Services (WWCS)
and defendants Oceaneering International, Inc.2 According to WWCS’s
fourth amended complaint, WWCS developed and patented a technological
system for removing hydrates from pipelines in a deep sea environment. 3
R. Doc. 152.
WWCS also sued Christopher Mancini, an Oceaneering
employee, but has voluntarily dismissed all claims against him. R. Doc. 171.
R. Doc. 147 at 4 ¶¶ 13, 14.
WWCS alleges, inter alia, that Oceaneering misappropriated WWCS’s trade
secrets and infringed on WWCS’s patents.4
Trial in this matter is currently set for July 17, 2017. 5 On March 2,
2017, WWCS moved to continue the trial date, arguing that a continuance is
necessary because of ongoing discovery disputes.6 Oceaneering opposes the
motion. 7 Additionally, on March 16, 2017, Oceaneering filed counterclaims
against WWCS.8 In its counterclaims, Oceaneering alleges that WWCS
engaged in unfair competition, and also alleges breach of contract and unjust
Six days later, on March 22, 2017, WWCS filed for Chapter 11
bankruptcy. 10 The bankruptcy filing operated as an automatic stay of all
judicial actions against WWCS. See U.S.C. § 362. On April 27, 2017, Judge
Summerhays of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District
of Louisiana granted the parties’ joint motion for relief from the automatic
stay, allowing the claims and counterclaims in this case to proceed as if the
See generally R. Doc. 147. For a more extensive review of the
relationship between WWCS and defendants, as well as the procedural
history of this case, see R. Doc. 56 at 1-9.
R. Doc. 80.
R. Doc. 152-1 at 2-5.
R. Doc. 164.
R. Doc. 161.
Id. at 45-49.
R. Doc. 166.
bankruptcy petition had not been filed. 11 As the parties have obtained relief
from the automatic stay, the Court may proceed and rule on WWCS’s motion
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that “[a] schedule may
be modified only for good cause and with the judge’s consent.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 16(b)(4). Whether to grant or deny a continuance is within the sound
discretion of the trial court. United States v. Alix, 86 F.3d 429, 434 (5th Cir.
1996). In deciding whether to grant a continuance, the Court’s “judgment
range is exceedingly wide,” for it “must consider not only the facts of the
particular case but also all of the demands on counsel’s time and the court’s.”
Streber v. Hunter, 221 F.3d 701, 736 (5th Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff argues that a continuance is necessary because of ongoing
extensive discovery disputes.
For example, plaintiff points out that
Oceaneering did not make its initial document production until October
2016. Of the approximately 54,000 documents that Oceaneering initially
produced, 98 percent were labeled “Highly Confidential,” which prevented
WWCS from showing any of the documents to the owner of WWCS’s patents,
R. Doc. 60 in 17-bk-50354 (Bankr. W.D. La. Apr. 27, 2017).
David Wright. 12
Some of these “highly confidential” documents were
publicly available on the internet, pages with nothing but company logos,
and some were simply blank pages. 13 Plaintiff also asserts that at the time it
filed this motion, it had only received approximately 10,000 of
approximately 170,000 requested emails from Oceaneering.
plaintiff contends that the delays and discovery disputes have hampered its’
experts’ abilities to render their opinions, and have made scheduling
depositions difficult, as WWCS asserts it cannot know who to depose and
what to ask them until they finish reviewing Oceaneering’s documents.
On February 22, 2017, Magistrate Judge Knowles granted WWCS’s
motion to de-designate these highly confidential documents in part, and
ordered Oceaneering to review its designations within thirty days, and
remove the highly confidential designation for documents that do not
warrant that designation. 14
Magistrate Judge Knowles further ordered
Oceaneering to inform WWCS of the reason it intends to continue to classify
certain documents as highly confidential, as well as requiring Oceaneering to
demonstrate good faith in its confidentiality designations.15
R. Doc. 152-1 at 3.
R. Doc. 146 at 1.
Id. at 1-2.
Additionally, after plaintiff filed its motion to continue, WWCS filed for
bankruptcy. This not only caused the automatic stay addressed above, but
also now means that WWCS needs the approval of the Bankruptcy court for
its expenditures, including its payments to its counsel as well as its experts.
As such, the Court finds that the extensive discovery delays and the
issues created by WWCS’s bankruptcy constitute good cause to justify the
continuance of trial. 16 Regardless of who bears more responsibility for the
state of the discovery disputes, the reality is this litigation, which involves
patent claims related to complicated deep sea technology and recently filed
counterclaims, is not at a stage where a July trial is realistic. Therefore,
WWCS’s motion to continue is granted.
WWCS’s motion also notes that the parties have not yet exchanged
patent claim construction information or determined if a Markman hearing
is necessary. Thus, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) the
Court will hold a conference with the parties on May 31, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.
to enter a new scheduling order with specific patent-related deadlines, in
addition to the standard deadlines. A proposed schedule is attached to this
In Oceaneering’s opposition, they acknowledge delays in
discovery but argue plaintiff’s “dilatory actions” are to blame. R. Doc. 164 at
3-6. While WWCS is not without responsibility for the discovery issues, as
Magistrate Judge Knowles’ Order points out, no party is blameless.
order. The parties shall be prepared to discuss possible trial dates and the
nature of contemplated motions practice at the Rule 16 conference. In
addition, the parties are ordered to submit a joint three-page report
discussing the discovery that has taken place to date and the discovery that
remains to be done five days before the Rule 16 Conference.
The period for amendments to pleadings, third-party actions,
crossclaims and counterclaims will remain closed.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion to continue is GRANTED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this _____ day of May, 2017.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Parties exchange proposed terms
and claim elements needing
Parties exchange preliminary claim
construction and extrinsic evidence
Opening claim construction briefs
and extrinsic evidence
Parties submit Claim Construction
Fact Discovery and Plaintiff Expert
Defendant Expert Deadline
Witness List Deadline
Expert Discovery Deadline
Dispositive motions and motions in
limine regarding the admissibility
of expert testimony deadlines
All other motions in limine
7/13/17 at 10:00 a.m.
2 weeks before trial
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