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Clean Energy v. Trillium Transportation Fuels LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Texas

March 22, 2019

Clean Energy, Plaintiff,
v.
Trillium Transportation Fuels LLC, Trillium USA Company LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          PETER BRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Clean Energy sued Defendants Trillium Transportation Fuels LLC and Tri Hum USA Company LLC under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), 18 U.S.C. § 1836, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. (D.E. 18.) Clean Energy filed a response. (D.E. 25.) This motion was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The court recommends that the motion be denied.

         1. Facts

         Clean Energy alleges that its two former employees, Charles Love and Ryan Forrest, obtained Clean Energy's trade secrets and left the company to join Trillium, a direct competitor. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 19, 23-25, 28-36.) Love allegedly plotted with Trillium's President, Bill Cashmarek, to take business from Clean Energy. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 23-27.)

         The Complaint alleges that Love, along with Cashmarek, approached Forrest and offered him to join Trillium as a senior business development manager. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-36.) According to Clean Energy, Love called Forrest multiple times and Forrest met with Trillium's "executive team" around the time Forrest started to email himself confidential data from Clean Energy's computers-"a practice he had rarely, if ever, done before." (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 32-34, 37.) Allegedly, "just one day before" Forrest resigned to accept the position at Trillium, he downloaded hundreds of confidential electronic documents from Clean Energy's computer and database into to his personal USB. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 39-40.) The documents included Clean Energy's "customer relationship management database" and "opportunity pipeline of current and ongoing deals." (Compl. ¶ 35.)

         The Complaint further alleges that Love, Forrest, and Trillium used the trade secrets to compete with Clean Energy. (Compl. ¶¶ 27, 49-54.)

         2. Standard of Review

         A plaintiffs complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes the court to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "[t]he court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff," and "drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205-06 (5th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

         A complaint only needs to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds it relies on. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted." Beanal v. Freeport-McMoran, Inc., 197 F.3d 161, 164 (5th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). The pleading rules "do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014); see also Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 530 (2011) ("[A] complaint need not pin plaintiffs claim for relief to a precise legal theory.").

         3. Analysis

         A. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) claim

         The CFAA provides a private cause of action in 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g). A civil plaintiff can state a cause of action under the CFAA for a violation of any subsection of § 1030 that results in damages involving one of the factors listed in § i03o(a)(s)(B)(i)-(v). Fiber Sys. Intern., Inc. v. Roehrs, 470 F.3d 1150, 1157 (5th Cir. 2006). For example, Plaintiff can state a CFAA claim by alleging that Defendants (1) "intentionally accesse[d] a protected computer without authorization or [by] exceed[ing] authorized access," and (2) obtained "information from any protected computer." See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2); Roehrs, 470 F.3d at 1157.

         Trillium argues that Clean Energy's complaint lacks the allegation that Forrest exceeded his authority when he accessed Clean Energy's computers because: he ...


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