United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
DENNIS R. DEVONA, Plaintiff,
STEVEN M. ZEITELS, Defendant. STEVEN M. ZEITELS, M.D., and ENDOCRAFT LLC, Counterclaim Plaintiffs,
DENNIS R. DEVONA, Counterclaim Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Talwani United States District Judge
the court is Defendant Steven M. Zeitels' Motion for
Judgment as a Matter of Law, or New Trial, to Alter and Amend
the Judgment, and Other Relief [#285], seeking judgment
as a matter of law, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b), or a new
trial, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59, and other relief. For the
reasons set forth herein, Zeitels' request for judgment
as a matter of law is GRANTED. I. Introduction This
case involved the fallout of two friends-Plaintiff Dennis R.
DeVona and Defendant Zeitels. The men worked together for
more than a decade but their endeavors eventually ended.
April 2013, DeVona filed a complaint for, inter
alia, declaratory relief under the Rhode Island Uniform
Partnership Act, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of
contract, and unjust enrichment. Compl.
a nine-day trial, the jury returned a verdict, finding as
relevant here that:
• DeVona and Zeitels entered into a legal partnership;
• In 2011, Zeitels breached a fiduciary duty arising
from that partnership; and
• Zeitels breached the partnership agreement from
Verdict [#270]. The jury awarded DeVona $395, 907.00 for
the breach of fiduciary duty, and $352, 007.00 for the breach
of partnership. The court entered judgment consistent with
the jury's verdict. J. [#279].
present motion followed.
in DeVona's favor, the facts as the jury could find them
are as follows.
is a craftsman with a variety of skill sets in design and
manufacture. Zeitels is a surgeon specializing in cancers of
the throat. DeVona first met Zeitels in the 1990's when
both men attended various auctions. Their friendship grew
over time as both shared interests in various arts and
crafts, to the point that DeVona served as the officiant of
1994, Zeitels mentioned to DeVona that he (Zeitels) was
exploring the possibility of manufacturing a medical
instrument. Tr. Day Two [#301] (“Day 2”) 24.
Zeitels asked DeVona whether DeVona would be interested in
“quarterbacking” the project, as Zeitels had
neither the time nor experience to involve himself with the
actual manufacture or development of a medical instrument.
Day 2, pp. 25-26. DeVona resisted the idea at first.
August 1997, Zeitels called DeVona and asked whether DeVona
would be interested in starting a company. DeVona agreed to
meet with Zeitels at Zeitels' home, where Zeitels showed
DeVona various medical instruments. Day 2, pp. 27-29. Zeitels
demonstrated the progress he had made thus far in his design,
and DeVona thereafter began to research the feasibility of
entering into business with Zeitels. The men had another
meeting at Zeitels' house, where they struck a deal
whereby Zeitels “would put up the money, ” DeVona
“would put up the energy and work it would take,
” and the men would “try and knock it out in 12
months”-“it” being somewhat vaguely
defined,  but including at least (i) “[going]
forward with a business”; (ii) quickly selling
“whatever [DeVona and Zeitels] developed”; and
“develop[ing] a surgical instrument or surgical
instruments, that [DeVona and Zeitels] would sell the
intellectual property to the highest bidder as soon as [they]
could.” Day 2, pp. 32-34. They agreed to split the
endeavor on a 60%-40% basis, with the larger share going to
Zeitels. The men opened a bank account to finance the
endeavor, and DeVona set to work helping to develop several
iterations of a prototype for a laryngoscope.
early 1999, the men had developed a prototype they thought
sufficient to offer to medical device manufacturers. Day 2,
p. 118. They met with “ACT Medical” in Boston,
where they learned it was financially infeasible to employ a
surgical instrument manufacturer as a ...