Court Declares Parties Are Over-Litigating the Case and Orders Parties to Reduce Disputed Jury Instructions or Face Reduced Trial Time Based on Reasonableness of Proposed Disputed Instructions

by Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP

In this patent infringement action, the district court concluded that the parties were over-litigating the case and matters were only getting worse as trial got closer. "The Court's previously stated concern that the parties are over-litigating this case is growing. 18 motions in limine were filed, and 15 were denied. A few days before trial, an ex parte motion was filed concerning discovery. After agreeing long ago at the Scheduling Conference that the trial should last 8 days, the parties recently asked for a much longer trial or trials, even though the case has been greatly simplified through motion practice. The number of documents on the docket in this case is approaching 350. The parties' continual expansion of the remaining issues in dispute retroactively waste the substantial resources the Court has committed to resolving the multitude of disputes the parties have presented."

The district court also expressed concern that the parties were not simplifying the issues for the jury. "Rather than viewing billions and billions of stars, they need to be told about the constellations that unify and simplify. This is not happening in this case, and the Court believes effectiveness in front of the jury will thus be diminished. This case is being over-litigated, particularly considering the amount involved."

The district court then expressed frustration with the amount of disputed instructions submitted by the parties. "Now, the Court has received 42 disputed jury instructions from Plaintiff and 30 disputed jury instructions from Defendant, with parties' objections exceeding 100 pages each."

The district court then gave the parties specific guidance on what jury instructions to use and how to reduce the number of disputed instructions. "The Court is generally inclined to use the Federal Circuit Bar Association's model instructions. If Defendants wish to point out specific errors in those instructions, or in Plaintiff's adaptation of those instructions, the Court will consider them. But a generalized preference for the Northern District of California model instructions is insufficient, and at this point, unhelpful. Also, jury instructions are not the place to frame a party's view of the case or argue it to the jury. That is what opening statements and closing arguments are for. The Court ORDERS the parties to materially reduce the number of jury instruction disputes based on this guidance."

The district court also warned that disputes over jury instructions might reduce the allotted trial time. "The parties suggested that this be a timed trial, and time has accordingly been allotted. To assure a more effective presentation of the case to the jury, the Court may decide to charge time it spends resolving arguments in chambers against the time allotted to the parties for the trial. This decision will be based on the reasonableness and accommodations apparent in the papers filed and the arguments made."

Despite the district court's order, neither party complied. "Neither party complied with the Court's Order, Docket No. 344, which required the parties "to materially reduce the number of jury instruction disputes based on [the] guidance" provided in the Order. Thirty-eight instructions remain in dispute. And, Plaintiff did not meet the filing deadline."

The district court then concluded that there would be consequences for the failure to comply with the order. "Court Orders must be obeyed. The Court will not permit the waste of its time or the jury's time with disputes that lead counsel should be able to resolve by discussion and compromise."

As a result, the district court postponed jury selection by one day and ruled that time will be charged against the parties' trial based on the reasonableness of the parties' proposed disputed jury instructions. "Therefore, jury selection will not begin as scheduled on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Instead, the Court will hold a hearing on the disputed jury instructions that day beginning at 9:00 a.m. The time will be charged against the parties' trial time in proportion to reasonableness, accommodation, and the prevailing party on each instruction."

Universal Electronics, Inc. v. Universal Remote Control, Inc., Case No. 12-00329 AG (JPRx) (C.D. Cal. May 1, 2014)



DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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