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DF Institute, LLC v. Dalton Education, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 19, 2019

DF INSTITUTE, LLC, d/b/a KAPLAN PROFESSIONAL, Plaintiff,
v.
DALTON EDUCATION, LLC, ALLISON STEERS, and CYNDEE REDFEARN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff DF Institute, LLC, doing business as Kaplan Professional, sells products and services for those preparing to be certified financial planners. Dkt. 1, ¶¶ 9-10. Defendants Allison Steers and Cyndee Redfearn were Kaplan employees, but both now work for defendant Dalton Education, LLC, which is Kaplan's competitor. Id., ¶¶ 24, 46, 86. Kaplan alleges that Steers and Redfearn both took Kaplan's confidential materials with them when they resigned so that they could give Dalton a competitive advantage over Kaplan. Id., ¶¶ 37-108. Kaplan is asserting eight different causes of action against defendants, including misappropriation of trade secrets under both state and federal law.

         Kaplan has moved for a preliminary injunction, Dkt. 3, which is ready for review.[1]Kaplan doesn't identify any harm it has suffered so far, but it seeks an injunction “to stop Dalton from using the stolen information to irreparably harm Kaplan Professional's corporate relationships and to stop the Individual Defendants from continuing to disclose protected information to Dalton.” Dkt. 4, at 12.[2]

         In response to Kaplan's motion, defendants acknowledge that Steers and Redfearn retained some Kaplan documents when they left their employment, but defendants contend that Steers and Redfearn did so “inadvertently, ” that the documents are “unimportant, ” and that Dalton hasn't used the documents “for any purpose.” Dkt. 46, at 1. Regardless, Joseph Gillice (Dalton's president) says that he has taken the following steps to prevent any misuse of the documents:

• directed his sales staff not to use or delete “any materials that came from Kaplan via Redfearn and Steers, ” Dkt. 49, ¶ 14;
• directed his sales staff to inform him if anyone possessed such materials, id.;
• informed his employees about the lawsuit and directed them to preserve any documents relevant to the complaint, id., ¶ 15;
• hired Stroz Freidberg, LLC, a forensic consulting firm, id., ¶ 16.

         Gillice says that Stroz Friedberg is taking the following actions:

• identifying and preserving relevant data and assessing whether any Kaplan materials taken by Redfearn or Steers were disseminated, accessed, or used by Dalton, id.;
• taking custody of Redfearn's and Steers's email and Dropbox accounts, id., ¶ 17;
• preserving and isolating the data in those accounts, id.;
• developing a plan to remediate any Kaplan material found in the accounts, id.

         Defense counsel say that they, as part of the negotiated remediation plan, will destroy or return any Kaplan materials identified ...


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