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Total Rebuild, Inc. v. PHC Fluid Power, L.L.C.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

August 29, 2019

TOTAL REBUILD, INC.
v.
PHC FLUID POWER, L.L.C.

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a patent infringement case in which Plaintiff Total Rebuild (“Plaintiff”) contends systems and/or methods utilized by or through Defendant PHC (“Defendant”) infringe claims of United States Patent No. 8, 146, 428 (“the '428 Patent”). The '428 Patent is directed to systems and methods for safely testing devices and components under high-pressure.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's “Motion in Limine to Preclude and Exclude Total Rebuild Inc.'s Requests for Admission Numbers 10-14” [Doc. No. 293]. Plaintiff responded to the motion. [Doc. No. 323].

         For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. PERTINENT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 2, 2017, Plaintiff served its First Set of Requests for Admission on Defendant, which included Requests for Admission Nos. 1-14. [Doc. No. 239-2] (“Requests”).[1]Defendant provided its responses on December 4, 2017. [Doc. No. 293-3] (“Responses”). The specific requests and responses at issue in this motion are as follows:

         (Image Omitted)

         [Doc. No. 293-3 at 8-10].

         Defendant first contends that the Requests and Responses are not relevant to infringement. [Doc. No. 293-1 at 4-8]. For example, Defendant argues that Request No. 10 does not require the equipment to be inside the bunker, as required by the claims. Id. at 5. Defendant further argues that Request No. 10 refers only to “a housing or bunker, ” and the claims require “an explosion proof safety housing.” Id. Defendant next argues that the claims require “a sensor for sensing that said access opening is closed, said sensor coupled to said bleed valve to activate said bleed valve to prevent pressure buildup in the high-pressure testing equipment if the access opening is not closed, ” while Request No. 10 does not require a sensor. Id. Finally, Defendant contends that all the asserted method claims recite the steps of “inserting a high-pressure device for testing within said housing through said access panel, ” and “operating said high-pressure pneumatics testing equipment from said control panel for testing high-pressure devices, ” and Request No. 10 has none of these requirements. Id. at 6.

         Defendant further argues that Request Nos. 11, 12, 13, and 14 are irrelevant to infringement for all the same reasons that Response to Request No. 10 is irrelevant to infringement. Id. at 6-8. Defendant adds that Request No. 13 does not exclude sensors that would only sound an alarm or illuminate a siren if the access opening was opened, and is broader than the function of the sensor of the asserted claims. Id. at 7. Defendant argues that there is no indication that the sensor was configured to “activate said bleed valve to prevent pressure buildup, ” as is required by the asserted claims. Id. Regarding Request No. 14, Defendant contends that it does not require any relationship between the sensor at the access opening and the bleed valve, as required by the claims. Id. at 8.

         Defendant next argues that even if the Requests were relevant, they should be precluded and excluded because their relevance would be minimal and substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, and misleading the jury. Id. Defendant contends that the generalized statements cannot fairly be applied to any specific system. Id. Defendant argues that its Responses do not suggest infringement because they do not show the presence of every element or its equivalent in the accused systems. Id. at 9.

         Plaintiff responds that Defendant has not moved for withdrawal or amendment of its answers as beyond the scope of permissible discovery. [Doc. No. 323 at 1]. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant's motion should be denied because the admissions are related to elements of claims in the '428 Patent, and are highly relevant. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff argues that the '428 Patent is comprised of claims with elements similar to the features in the Requests. Id. at 3. According to Plaintiff, Defendant's admissions to portions of those elements make it more probable than it would be without the admissions that Defendant infringes those elements. Id.

         Plaintiff next argues that there is no danger that the jury will misconstrue admissions of activity by Defendant as fully dispositive of infringement of those claims. Id. at 4. Plaintiff contends that the jury will be instructed that the admissions is only a piece of the puzzle that must be completed in order to find infringement. Id. at 3. Finally, Plaintiff argues ...


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