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Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 5, 2013

ELENA STURDZA, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, et al., Defendants

For ELENA STURDZA, Plaintiff: Alyza Doba Lewin, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEWIN AND LEWIN LLP, Washington, DC; Nathan Lewin, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEWIN & LEWIN, LLP, Washington, DC.

For UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Defendant: Guy Hamilton Loeb, LEAD ATTORNEY, PAUL HASTINGS LLP, Washington, DC.

For NATHAN LEWIN, Movant: Alyza Doba Lewin, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEWIN AND LEWIN LLP, Washington, DC; Nathan Lewin, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEWIN & LEWIN, LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 97

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE KENNETH BRITZ AND RENATA HOLOD AS EXPERT WITNESSES

BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is a motion in limine brought by Defendant United Arab Emirates (" UAE" ) seeking to exclude Kenneth Britz and Renata Holod as expert witnesses (hereinafter " Def's Mot." ). Having reviewed the briefs and all relevant materials, the Court grants the motion, for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Elena Sturdza (" Sturdza" ) brought suit against UAE on October 26, 1998, alleging several causes of action.

Page 98

See Complaint, Dkt. #1. In her claim of copyright infringement, which is the only claim that survives to the present day, Sturdza alleges that the UAE copied (or permitted her competitor in a design competition to copy) her architectural designs for a planned embassy building. First Amended Complaint, Dkt. #3 (" Compl." ), ¶ 73. Both Sturdza and former defendant Angelos Demetriou submitted designs to the UAE's design competition in 1993. Id. ¶ ¶ 13-14. The UAE selected Sturdza and began contract negotiations. Id. ¶ ¶ 21, 29-34. However, the UAE never executed a final contract with Sturdza. Id. ¶ ¶ 35, 39. Instead, the UAE contracted with Demetriou to design and build the embassy building. Id. ¶ 42. Demetriou revised his 1993 designs and submitted new versions in 1997. Id. ¶ 46. Sturdza alleges that the UAE infringed on her copyright by providing Demetriou with her design, or access to it, and by copying her design for submission to regulatory authorities and construction of the building. Id. ¶ ¶ 72-73. Disputed issues in this case include the similarity between the designs, the aspects of the designs that are protectable by copyright, and the extent to which Islamic conventions or the UAE's competition manual dictated the elements of Sturdza's and Demetriou's designs.

The parties were instructed to designate experts on or before September 30, 1999. See Def's Mot. at 3; Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates, Civil Action No. 98-2051, at *10, n. 4 (D.D.C. Oct. 30, 2000). On October 13, 1999, UAE received an " Expert Witness Report" by Kenneth Britz, dated October 8, 1999. Def's Mot. Exh. A. UAE acknowledged receipt of the report by letter dated October 13, 1999. See Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion in limine to Exclude Kenneth Britz and Renata Holod as Expert Witnesses (" Pl's Opp." ), Exh. II.

The October 8, 1999 Britz report is a little over one page long, single spaced. Britz's opinions, which concern the similarities between Sturdza's design and that of her competitor, Demetriou, appear in three paragraphs at the beginning, followed by a paragraph on qualifications and a paragraph on fees. Id. In the report, Britz explained that he was shown " study sketches and preliminary drawings" from Sturdza, and " [Sturdza's] design competition entry as well as that of Angelos Demetriou & Associates." Id. He also noted that he was told the entries were " submitted to the competition sponsor on approximately the same date." Id. Britz stated that he " was asked to examine both entries and offer an opinion as to whether the two designs bore a resemblance to one another and to whet extent." Id. The entirety of Britz's comparison paragraph appears below:

The two designs share the same orientation of front, side and rear facades to the streets surrounding the site. Both have aggregations of space, of the same size and shape, arrayed in bilateral symmetry about an axis running east-west through the center of the site. Both have major elements of space surrounding a large, square, multi-storied central open space, covered by a dome. Both continue this same plan geometry through the same number of floors. Many functional or programmatic elements appear in the same general location within the overall building envelope. So the basic horizontal geometry, shapes of spaces, shape of the building perimeter, overall massing, fenestration, and disposition of horizontal and vertical circulation elements are substantially similar. It appears as though both designs are derived from the same conception of how the building is to be organized and its architectural ideas expressed.

Page 99

Id. Britz concluded " in [his] professional opinion, based on the graphic material presented to me, that the two designs are ...


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