A federal judge in Denver has ordered the medical device company Stryker and its attorneys to pay an additional $2.8 million to a small local company, calling that “poetic justice.”
In May, Judge Brooke Jackson determined the Michigan-based multinational corporation, founded by the grandfather of Colorado’s richest woman, unjustly recruited half of Greenwood Village-based ORP Surgical’s employees. It then deleted evidence of that and engaged in “nasty litigation tactics,” Jackson ruled.
Stryker was ordered to pay $4.8 million at that time, but Jackson wasn’t done. On Monday, he ordered Stryker and its attorneys with the massive Chicago firm Seyfarth Shaw to cover ORP’s attorney fees and costs, plus interest, and pay penalties for its “scorched earth” behavior.
Stryker did not respond to a request for comment. The company and its attorneys previously declined to comment on the May ruling and Jackson’s criticisms then.
“Stryker and Seyfarth Shaw’s abusive litigation conduct served to drastically increase our client’s fees and costs,” ORP attorney Christopher Carrington, with the Denver law firm Richards Carrington, said Wednesday. “But Stryker’s gambit failed, our clients held firm, and now Stryker must pay millions for its ill-advised business and litigation choices.”
Stryker and ORP were business partners. Stryker manufactured medical implants and ORP sold them in Colorado. But after the partnership soured in 2019, Stryker hired a dozen of ORP’s salespeople, an act of “corporate raiding” that violated contracts, Jackson ruled.
Stryker executives then deleted “an untold number” of text messages and tried “to conceal the very existence” of hundreds of phone calls, according to the judge. Its executives also “spun far-fetched stories” and “made flat-out misrepresentations” at trial, Jackson said.
The judge set out to punish Stryker and thought he did so in his May ruling. But ORP pushed for stiffer sanctions and Jackson agreed to make Stryker cover some of the costs that ORP accrued in a related case in state court. In that case, which has since been resolved, ORP sued its former salespeople to get the texts that Stryker executives deleted.
“I recognize that awarding attorney’s fees incurred in another case is unusual,” Jackson wrote in an August court filing, but said failing to do so “would undermine the rule of law by opening a loophole” and incentivize corporations to destroy damning evidence.
“There is a certain poetic justice to awarding plaintiffs’ costs incurred in the related state court litigation,” Jackson said, noting that Seyfarth Shaw used “abusive litigation tactics” in the state case, too, like getting that trial scheduled for the same time as the federal trial. The law firm also tried using a lawsuit in New Jersey to “intimidate” ORP’s owner, Jackson said.
“(Stryker) and its counsel considered related cases fair game for abusive litigation tactics,” Jackson wrote. “Following their lead, I consider the related case fair game for sanctioning their abusive litigation tactics.”
Stryker, a Fortune 500 company, was founded by Homer Stryker. He is the grandfather of Pat Stryker, a Fort Collins philanthropist who is Colorado’s only female billionaire.
“Stryker’s shameless and repeated disregard for the truth in its testimony to a federal court under oath was disheartening, to say the least,” Carrington said. “Homer Stryker would undoubtedly be disappointed in his company’s elevation of profit over principle.”