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Reser's Fine Foods, Inc. v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 25, 2013

RESER'S FINE FOODS, INC., a domestic business corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
BOB EVANS FARMS, INC., an Ohio-based corporation; BOB EVANS FARM FOODS, INC., an Ohio-based corporation, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Reser's Fine Foods, Inc. seeks to voluntarily dismiss its claims against defendants Bob Evans Farms, Inc., Bob Evans Farms LLC, and BEF Foods, Inc. without prejudice and without conditions.

After reviewing the record, plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Specifically, dismissal without prejudice is GRANTED subject to the Court's terms and conditions. Plaintiff's request that no conditions be imposed upon dismissal is DENIED.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 18, 2013, plaintiff filed suit against defendants alleging breach of a non-disclosure agreement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and conversion relating to defendants' production and sale of baked refrigerated food items. On February 22, 2013, defendants filed their answer, including counterclaims for intentional contractual interference, violation of the Lanham Act, unfair competition, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel.

On March 8, 2013, defendants moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims. That same day, this Court granted plaintiff's motion to stay summary judgment pending discovery. Thereafter, on May 4, 2013, this Court denied plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. During the next several months, the parties proceeded with limited discovery.

On September 13, 2013, plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice and without attorneys fees. On September 17, 2013, this Court issued a scheduling order construing that notice as a motion to voluntarily dismiss.

STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) (2) allows a plaintiff, pursuant to an order of the court and subject to any terms and conditions the court deems proper, to dismiss an action without prejudice at any time. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41 (a) (2); Stevedoring Servs. of Am. v. Armilla Int'l B.V. , 889 F.2d 919, 921 (9th Cir. 1989).

A plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice is addressed to the court's sound discretion. Westlands Water Dist. v. United States , 100 F.3d 94, 96 (9th Cir. 1996) However, such a motion should be granted with prejudice, as opposed to without, if the defendant "will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result." Smith v. Lenches , 263 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2001).

DISCUSSION

I. Dismissal Without Prejudice

Plaintiff asserts that defendants will not suffer legal prejudice if this motion is granted and plaintiff's claims are dismissed without prejudice. Legal prejudice, in this context, is defined as "prejudice to some legal interest, some legal claim, some legal argument." Westlands , 100 F.3d at 97.

Defendants contend that they will suffer legal prejudice if plaintiff's motion is granted because "a dismissal without prejudice will not allow Bob Evans to pursue attorneys' fees and costs under the Trade Secret Act and the NDA...." (Doc. #103 at 12). The Ninth Circuit, however, has held that the incurrence of expenses in ...


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