Mayo Clinic v. Elkin
September 9, 2011
The Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court judgment against Dr. Peter Elkin (Elkin) a clinician and researcher formerly employed by the Mayo Clinic (Mayo), while calling into question the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees. Mayo originally brought ten causes of action against Elkin relating to Elkin’s misappropriation of natural language processing software that Elkin developed during his employment with Mayo.
While overruling a number of Elkin’s objections and affirming the judgment against Elkin, the unanimous Eighth Circuit panel took issue with the district court’s award of $1,900,139.90 in attorneys’ fees. Only one of the ten claims brought against Elkin, the Minnesota trade secret claim, provided a statutory basis for recovering attorneys’ fees. Despite this, Mayo asserted and the district court agreed that $1,900,139.90 of $2,447,058.36 (78%) in total attorneys’ fees were attributable to the trade secret claim.
The Eighth Circuit found that Mayo’s broad monthly summaries of litigation expense did not provide a sufficiently detailed basis for the district court’s award, and found that rather than performing a proper Lodestar analysis, the district court had spent its time “lambasting Elkin for his employment of time-consuming litigation strategies.” The panel remanded the case for a new determination of attorneys’ fees, and ordered Mayo to “strike an appropriate balance between the 4,000 pages [of total documentation] and the 5-page chart provided” in its original request.