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Abbott Laboratories v. Finkel

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 17, 2017

ABBOTT LABORATORIES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
DUSTIN FINKEL, Defendant-Movant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Dustin Finkel's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Abbott Laboratories' Conversion Claim. (Doc. # 41.) For the following reasons, the Court denies the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For purposes of resolving this motion, the Court, as it must, accepts the following well-pled facts as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         On December 8, 2014, Plaintiff Abbott Laboratories hired Defendant Dustin Finkel as a General Manager for its Nutrition Division. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 7.) While Defendant worked for Plaintiff, he received access to its confidential information and trade secrets, including “communications, financial analyses, market proposals, and strategic presentations that are not known outside of Abbott's business.” (Id. at ¶ 27.) To protect its confidential information and trade secrets, Plaintiff required Defendant to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. (Id. at ¶ 29.) In addition, Plaintiff's Electronic Messages policy prohibited Defendant from backing up or storing digital information on his “personal storage devices or any websites or systems that are not managed or approved for use by Abbott.” (Id. at ¶¶ 30-32.) The policy also prohibited any sharing of Plaintiff's electronic media with “anyone outside of Abbott, including family, friends, or business partners.” (Id. at ¶ 31.)

         During the course of Defendant's employment, he both disclosed Plaintiff's confidential information and trade secrets to a third party and transferred that information to his personal online cloud storage Dropbox account. (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 35.)

         On February 19, 2016, Plaintiff terminated Defendant's employment. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Among the reasons cited for termination was that Defendant breached Plaintiff's policies by “misuse[ing] . . . Abbott's confidential and proprietary information, trade secrets, electronic information, and equipment.” (Id. at ¶ 22.) On the date of his termination, Plaintiff's IT personnel, with Defendant's consent, deleted the confidential information and trade secrets that Defendant transferred to his personal Dropbox account. (Id. at 7, ¶ 37.)

         However, Plaintiff later discovered that “Dropbox has a feature that allows a user to restore any file or folder removed from an active user account in the past 30 days or longer, depending on the version of Dropbox.” (Id. at ¶ 38.) Thereafter, Plaintiff requested that Defendant certify:

(a). . . all Abbott documents or electronic files were destroyed or deleted from any electronic or physical storage location owned or used by the third party to whom Finkel disclosed Abbott's confidential information and trade secrets; and (b) allow Abbott to monitor his Dropbox account activity and ensure that the deletion restoration feature was not activated.

(Id. at ¶ 40.)

         Additionally, Plaintiff sought to have a third-party forensic consultant examine Defendant's Dropbox account to ensure that all of Plaintiff's records and information were deleted and not re-downloaded, “transferred, or forwarded to any other individual, entity, electronic device, or cloud storage.” (Id. at ¶ 41.) Defendant did not provide the certification, nor did he consent to Plaintiff's request to have a third-party forensic consultant examine his Dropbox account. (Id. at 8, ¶ 42.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's refusal to allow Plaintiff to monitor his Dropbox account and ensure the deletion of Plaintiff's information potentially contained therein or transferred elsewhere, creates a risk that Defendant will further disclose its confidential information and trade secrets. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Plaintiff further argues that Defendant's refusal deprives “[Plaintiff] of its efforts to maintain the secrecy of its confidential information and trade secrets, which if disclosed further to a person or entity seeking to compete with [Plaintiff] would cause substantial harm.” (Id. at ¶ 45.)

         Plaintiff initiated this suit on April 12, 2017, asserting claims of breach of contract, conversion, and misappropriation of trade secrets. (Doc. # 1 at 8-11.) On August 30, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's conversion claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) arguing that (1) the claim is preempted by the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”), and (2) the allegations in the complaint show that Defendant was authorized to access and use Plaintiff's proprietary information and that he returned it to Plaintiff upon its request. (Doc. # 41 at 4-5.)

         II. STAND ...


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