PITTSBURGH — The state Superior Court has reversed a Westmoreland County decision that had granted summary judgment to a maker of "belleville washers" in a long-running lawsuit over trade secrets.

On April 11, the court overturned summary judgment in favor of Belleville International, which was sued in 2007 by Key Bellevilles, another maker of the metal washers.

In 2006, many employees, including defendant Frank Ballina, left KB and joined BI. Because of this, KB filed a complaint alleging that BI was using KB’s highly protected trade secrets to develop its business. 

KB also alleged that BI was luring KB employees to its company and stealing its customers. The actions against Ballina were due to an alleged breach of contract that KB says all employees enter into when they are hired.

For several years, both companies were back and forth in court until the court reached a summary judgment decision in 2011. 

The trial court did not believe KB could prove that the company was damaged by BI’s alleged interference or if it was KB’s own failed performance that was causing the company to lose business. 

Also, the trial court denied granting summary judgment to KB because KB failed to provide evidence of the alleged damages it incurred. KB had “repeatedly informed BI that damages calculations and testimony will be presented by an expert witness,” according to court documents. KB never provided this documentation.

Several years later, Ballina and BI renewed their motion for summary judgment, alleging KB never produced any evidence. The defendants argued that since KB could not produce evidence of damages, that was proof that the company's performance did not suffer because of BI.

KB argued that it would soon produce evidence, which it did in May 2014.

In August 2014, the trial court granted BI’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court ruled that KB had no reasonable explanation for why it could not show reports proving damages for over two years. The large gap of time was proof enough to the trial court that there was not sufficient evidence of damage done to the company by BI. 

KB entered an appeal to the state Superior Court. The company claimed the trial court “erred as a matter of law by entering summary judgment because discovery was not closed, rendering Appellees’ motions premature,” according to court documents. 

KB claimed that just because it could not produce evidential paperwork in a timely fashion, that was not grounds for a party to file for summary judgment. KB also stood by its assertion that the paperwork it did produce proved damages sustained by BI’s interference.

In the Superior Court’s decision, the court stated that an expert report is not necessary to prove damages sustained by the actions of another. It was proven that KB possessed trade secrets and those secrets could have been obtained by BI because of the actions of Ballina, the court ruled. 

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