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The Children's Hospital Corp. v. Cakir

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 12, 2017

ISIN CAKIR, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Children's Hospital Corporation (“Children's Hospital”) has filed this action against Defendant Isin Cakir (“Cakir”), alleging that Cakir is in wrongful possession of the data on a laptop computer Cakir used during the course of his employment with Children's Hospital. D. 1. Children's Hospital asserts claims for replevin and conversion under Massachusetts law. Id. Cakir has now filed a motion for summary judgment. D. 53. Children's Hospital filed a cross motion for summary judgment on those same claims. D. 55. For the foregoing reasons, Cakir's motion for summary judgment is DENIED and Children's Hospital's motion for summary judgment is ALLOWED.

         II. Standard of Review

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those that carry the potential “to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sánchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). The burden of demonstrating with evidence that there exists no genuine issue of material fact belongs to the moving party. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the non-moving party may not rely exclusively upon the allegations or denials in her pleadings. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party “must, with respect to each issue on which she would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a general rule, that requires the production of evidence that is ‘significant[ly] probative.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). In conducting this inquiry, the Court “view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor.” Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).

         III. Procedural History

         This civil action is related to Cabi et al. v. Boston Children's Hospital (“Cabi”), an ongoing suit in which Cakir, along with two other plaintiffs, asserts employment discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation claims against Children's Hospital. Cabi et al. v. Boston Children's Hosp., No. 15-cv-12306-DJC, 2016 WL 593495, at *1 (D. Mass. Feb. 12, 2016). In this case, on September 3, 2015, Children's Hospital brought claims of conversion and replevin against Cakir concerning a laptop and data from that laptop. D. 1. On October 29, 2015, Cakir brought a counterclaim for abuse of process. D. 9. Children's Hospital moved to dismiss the counterclaim and moved for judgment on the pleadings on its counts of conversion and replevin. D. 12. After briefing and hearing, this Court denied Children's Hospital's motion for judgment on the pleadings on its claims, but allowed Children's Hospital's motion to dismiss Cakir's counterclaim for abuse of process. D. 26.

         IV. Factual Summary

         From October 2010 to June 19, 2014, Cakir was employed as a post-doctoral fellow at Children's Hospital working in a laboratory run by Dr. Umut Ozcan (“Ozcan”). D. 57 ¶ 1, D. 67-1 ¶ 1. On October 6, 2010, Cakir signed a document entitled the Participation Agreement for Persons Using the Funds and Facilities of Children (“Participation Agreement”). D. 57 ¶ 11, D. 67-1 ¶ 11. Children's Hospital had two other policies in place during this period: the Acceptable Use of Computer and Network Resources (“Acceptable Use Policy”) and the Policy on Data Management, Retention Availability - Investigator and Staff Obligations (“Data Management Policy”). D. 57 ¶ 12-15; D. 67-1 ¶ 12-15. The “Acceptable Use Policy” states that it covers “[anyone] who uses [Children's Hospital's] Computer Resources and related services or accesses the information stored there” and “[any] hardware or software systems that store, communicate, or can access CHB's electronic information (collective, the ‘Computer and Network Resources').” D. 57 ¶ 13; D. 67-1 ¶ 13; D. 59-6 at 1. Under the Acceptable Use Policy, any “[i]nformation stored on or transmitted over CHB's Computer and Network Resources (including email) is the sole and exclusive property of [Children's Hospital].” D. 57 ¶ 13; D. 67-1 ¶ 13; D. 59-6 at 1.

         Between July 2013 and June 2014, Cakir used a 13-inch Macbook Air laptop (“the Laptop”), at least in part for work-related activity. D. 57 ¶ 2, D. 67-1 ¶ 2. On July 9, 2013, Serkan Cabi, a post-doctoral fellow in Ozcan's lab sent an email to Mario Salazar, a research assistant in Ozcan's lab responsible for procuring equipment, requesting that Salazar place an order for a 13-inch MacBook Air, among other supplies. D. 57 ¶ 4; ¶ D. 67-1 ¶ 4. Cabi told Salazar that Ozcan had approved the order. D. 57 ¶ 4, D. 67-1 ¶ 4. According to Cakir, Ozcan represented to Cakir that the Laptop was a gift to thank Cakir for helping with a grant submission. D. 67-1 ¶ 2. Ozcan asked Cakir to make sure that he registered the computer with Children's Hospital. D. 57 ¶ 5, D. 67-1 ¶ 5. The Laptop was paid for by Children's Hospital. D. 57 ¶ 5-8; D. 67-1 ¶ 5-8. After the Laptop was delivered to Cakir, Cakir registered the Laptop with Children's Hospital. D. 57 ¶ 16; D. 67-1 ¶ 16.

         In March 2014, Children's Hospital made a “mirror image” of the Laptop, copying the entire contents of the Laptop. D. 53-1 ¶ 1-2; D. 64-1 ¶ 1-2. The parties dispute whether Children's Hospital still has this mirror image. D. 64-1 ¶ 1; D. 73 at 2-3. A few months later, on June 19, 2014, Children's Hospital informed Cakir that he was no longer working in Ozcan's lab. D. 57 ¶ 17; D. 67-1 ¶ 17. On August 7, 2014, Children's Hospital informed Cakir that it owned the Laptop and requested that Cakir return it to Children's Hospital. D. 57 ¶ 18-19, D. 67-1 ¶ 18-19. Cakir, however, did not return the Laptop as requested. D. 57 ¶ 20, D. 67-1 ¶ 20. In August 2014, Cakir provided Children's Hospital with a thumb drive containing at least some of the research data that was on the Laptop; there is a dispute between the parties regarding whether this thumb drive contained all of the research data that was on the Laptop. D. 53-1 ¶ 3; D. 64-1 ¶ 3.

         On August 21, 2014, at Children's Hospital's request, Cakir delivered the Laptop to TechFusion, a computer forensic firm, and TechFusion made a copy of the Laptop (“Forensic Image”). D. 57 ¶ 21; D. 67-1 ¶ 21, D. 53-1 ¶ 4, D. 64-1 ¶ 4. Children's Hospital paid TechFusion for this service, although there is a dispute regarding whether Children's Hospital has paid TechFusion in full for this service. D. 57 ¶ 21; D. 67-1 ¶ 21. Cakir and TechFusion entered into a Non-Disclosure Agreement, whereby TechFusion would not give Children's Hospital the Forensic Image without Cakir's written consent. D. 57 ¶ 22; D. 67-1 ¶ 22.

         On October 31, 2014, Children's Hospital sent a letter to Cakir through his then-counsel requesting the return of the Laptop and “all files, hard drives and metadata . . . stored or located on” it. D. 57 ¶ 23; D. 67-1 ¶ 23. Cakir retrieved the Laptop from TechFusion, deleted certain files from it, and then delivered the Laptop to Children's Hospital on November 17, 2014. D. 57 ¶ 24-25; D. 67-1 ¶ 24-25; D. 53-1 ¶ 6; D. 64-1 ¶ 6. Cakir contends that the deleted files were exclusively personal and Children's Hospital contends that the deleted files contained research-related material. D. 53-1 ¶ 11, D. 64-1 ¶ 11. Cakir still has not authorized TechFusion to deliver the Forensic Image to Children's Hospital. D. 57 ¶ 26-27; D. 67-1 ¶ 26-27.

         V. ...

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