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Ex-Stryker Rep Loses in Court, Again

Christopher Ridgeway had appealed a 2016 jury verdict in which he was ordered to pay nearly $750,000 for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and a trade-secrets claim.

Amanda Pedersen

A former Stryker employee who had accused the company of fabricating the non-compete document that was used against him in court last year, resulting in a loss of nearly $750,000, failed to prove in an appeal that any such fraud occurred.

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Christopher Ridgeway worked for Stryker for just shy of 12 years, but was fired in September 2013 after the Kalamazoo, MI-based company learned he was considering an opportunity to work for Biomet (now Zimmer Biomet). After he was fired, Ridgeway began working for Biomet within his former Stryker Louisiana-based sales territories, through a company he ran called Stone Surgical.

Stryker sued Ridgeway for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets. In February 2016, a jury found in favor of Stryker and awarded damages in the amount of $745,195.

Ridgeway appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuity, contending that Stryker fabricated the document used against him in court by attaching his signed page to a form non-compete agreement, rather than his original agreement.

While the resolution of the appeal was pending, Stryker sought millions more in court costs and attorney's fees, and Ridgeway declared bankruptcy.

According to the appellate court ruling, written by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons on behalf of a three-judge panel and filed Wednesday, Ridgeway tried to use internal Stryker emails to show that management knew he did not have a non-compete agreement, and that the company tried to conceal that fact by filing the initial complaint with a form copy of the non-compete, rather than with his original agreement.

"Ridgeway offered no other evidence to demonstrate that the agreement attached to the complaint was not his, and therefore that Stryker's statement that it was a 'true and correct copy' was false," Gibbons wrote.

Ridgeway also failed to offer any further evidence of fraudulent activity, according to the judge. Gibbons also noted that the district court did not require Ridgeway to unequivocally prove the fraud, but instead asked for some evidence to establish a reasonable basis for believing that fraud occurred, which he was not able to show. He also had not raised the argument regarding the validity of the agreement until his brief on appeal, the judge said.

Ridgeway also argued in his appeal that the case should have been tried under Louisiana law, where he was based, rather than under Michigan law, but Gibbons said the lower court was correct to apply Michigan law because that state had a "materially greater" interest in the case than Louisiana.

Amanda Pedersen is Qmed's news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

[Image courtesy of Pixabay]

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