Photo of lumber

Jury trial dates continue shifting this spring for a federal court case focused on the business interests of two area building supply firms.

In May 2016, Porters Building Centers Inc., based in Kearney, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Sprint Lumber of St. Joseph and Platte City, its owner and four former employees. The action alleges that the four ex-employees of Porters conspired with Sprint Lumber to force Porters out of business — and thus result in a monopoly of the market.

The lawsuit seeks financial relief for damages based on the attempt to solicit employees and customers from Porters. An injunction also is sought by Sprint Lumber, owner/controller Scott Laderoute of Platte City, and former employees Jerry Downey, Jess Reynolds, Sheila Higdon and Ray Meng, all of the St. Joseph and Atchison, Kansas, areas.

Earlier this year, District Judge Ortrie Smith had set an August trial for the case. However, on a joint motion, he ruled the trial be continued to Monday, Dec. 4, in the U.S. District Court’s Western District in Kansas City. A pretrial conference is set for Friday, Nov. 3.

Both sides also have been asked to file motions by Monday, July 10. Based on the court file, attorneys also have been making arrangements this month for witness depositions. Otherwise, the run-up to the trial has been dominated by behind-the-scenes work by attorneys that has included proposed exhibit lists.

Court documents stated Porters filed the suit in an effort to protect its confidential information and trade secrets. The company also alleges Sprint Lumber violated precepts of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by destroying electronic information.

The suit added the actions occurred over a five-month period that involved numerous meetings and communications between Sprint Lumber and the former employees. It said the defendants had tried to “capture” Porters’ sales, copy confidential information and “dump” data of the company’s computer systems — all during their continued employment by Porters.

Sprint’s attorneys have said the company remained within its legal rights to compete for customers and employees.

Ray Scherer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.