Mayo Clinic has withdrawn its trade secret lawsuit against Dr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, the former CEO of Mayo Medical Labs, as part of a settlement agreement.
The settlement was reached Wednesday, and Mayo Clinic withdrew "with prejudice," meaning it cannot pursue the matter again.
Cockerill denied any wrongdoing in the settlement, as he has since the case began in October.
“Although preserving his integrity and professional reputation is of great importance to Dr. Cockerill,” said Nancy Vollertsen, one of Cockerill’s attorneys at Lindquist and Vennum, "the distraction and expense of further litigation became too burdensome for Dr. Cockerill and his family.”
Bryan Anderson of Mayo Clinic also issued a statement about the settlement this morning.
"Mayo Clinic did not take this action lightly. However, we firmly believe that legal action was necessary to protect our confidential and trade secret information against improper disclosure," the statement says.
As part of the settlement, Cockerill agreed not to work or consult for Mayo’s largest competitors for two years. He also agreed to return all information he took from Mayo Clinic and pay a portion of Mayo Clinic's legal expenses.
In October, Mayo Clinic filed suit against Cockerill, of Rochester, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract. The suit alleged Cockerill covertly accepted a job in June with Quest Diagnostics, a major competitor of Mayo Medical Labs. He had told Mayo Clinic he was retiring at the end of September to help his 85-year-old mother run her fertilizer business in Nebraska. On Oct. 1, he took the position of vice president and chief laboratory officer at Quest.
Mayo Clinic soon filed the lawsuit, alleging Cockerill had misrepresented his departure and had left with clinic-owned memory sticks with data downloaded from his work station. A restraining order was granted that prevented him from working at Quest. The order claimed he could cause "irreparable harm" to Mayo Clinic by working there.
Earlier this month, Cockerill officially resigned from Quest. He had worked for the New Jersey-based multibillion dollar company only from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14.
In a statement from his lawyers following the settlement, Cockerill said he "maintains that he was a loyal Mayo employee throughout his employment and had no intention of harming Mayo, where he had worked for over 30 years and which employs several members of his family. He was dismayed that Mayo did not offer him the opportunity to explain his actions but instead summarily sued him for presumptive misuse of confidential information, forcing him to expend considerable resources to defend his integrity and professional reputation.”
Mayo Clinic defended taking the unusual step of filing a very public lawsuit.
"We understand that our staff members move to other organizations, and, when they do so in a transparent manner, we can cooperatively manage any conflicts-of-interest during their transition, and we can protect our confidential and trade secret information,” it said in a statement.