Judge tosses whistleblower letter, limits discovery in Zillow-Move suit

Motions to limit subpoenas, strike letter benefit Zillow in legal row

King County Superior Court Judge John Chun decisions on Tuesday in the ongoing legal battle between Zillow Group (Z) and Move (MOVE) over accusations of theft of trade secrets and unfair competition are a setback for Move.

Chun yesterday granted a motion to strike from the record a letter from former Zillow Group executive that charged that Zillow stole listings data, and which accused former Move executive Errol Samuelson of violating court order limiting his work.

In April, Chun agreed to seal in whole and redact key parts of a letter from the then-anonymous whistleblower claiming Samuelson took trade secrets from Move and the National Association of Realtors.

In the motion to strike, Zillow’s attorney’s called the filing of the letter an attempt “to turn the King County Courthouse into a tabloid magazine reached a new low when they filed with both the Special Master and the Court, an unsigned and unsworn letter written by a disgruntled former employee.”

Move and the National Association of Realtors filed suit against Zillow on March 17, 2014, after Samuelson, then Move's chief strategy officer, resigned from Move on March 5, 2014, and joined Zillow as the company's second-highest paid executive on the same day.

Move alleged that Samuelson and Zillow stole trade secrets and proprietary information from Realtor.

Now Chun has granted the motion by Zillow to throw out completely the letter, written by former Zillow Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Chris Crocker.

Chun also struck on Tuesday third-party discovery requests filed by Move seeking additional information regarding the Zillow-Trulia merger, which was announced in January 2014 and completed in early 2015.

The second decision by Chun means that Move’s desire to question by subpoena Trulia personnel, as well as those from Zillow-Trulia merger advisors Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), will be curtailed.

Amanda Woolley, a spokesperson for Zillow, told HousingWire in an email, “We are pleased with the court's decision.”

Move declined to comment.

The original lawsuit from March 2014 alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of trade secrets and accused Samuelson of misappropriating trade secret information by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization.

Move has also since alleged that when he was still at Move, Samuelson informed Zillow executives that Move was considering a merger with Trulia.

Zillow has denied the accusation.

(h/t Inman News)

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