Neopost USA, Inc. v. McCabe, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105850
Neopost USA, Inc. and Pitney Bowes, Inc. are two companies that essentially hold a duopoly on the national “mailing equipment” market, an industry that includes postage meters, mailing machines, addressing machines, folders, inserters, and relevant software. Neopost, Inc. employed Mr. John McCabe from 2002 to August 1, 2011 but did not have him sign a non-compete agreement until February 2005, at which time he received a pay raise in connection with a corporate reorganization.
The parties executed a subsequent restrictive covenant in March 2006. The agreements prohibited Mr. McCabe from engaging in competitive business activities for one year following termination within fifty miles of any Neopost office where he had worked during his employment with the company. Additionally, he could not solicit Neopost’s customers or employees during the specified one-year period. Neopost, Inc. merged with Hasler, Inc. and the transaction became official in November 2009 with the creation of a new company, Neopost USA, that assumed title to Neopost, Inc.’s assets and liabilities.
Mr. McCabe’s last day with Neopost was August 1, 2011 and he began to work for Pitney Bowes, its direct and main competitor, only a few days later. There was a dispute between the parties regarding whether Mr. McCabe voluntarily terminated (resigned) his employment with Neopost or the company fired him.
Neopost sued Mr. McCabe in federal court for violation of the non-compete agreement and requested that the court enforce the provisions of the covenant in order to prevent further breaches of the agreements executed by the parties. Mr. McCabe argued that his non-compete agreement with Neopost, Inc. were not assignable to Neopost USA, Inc. after the merger with Hasler, Inc. and thus, he was not bound by the provisions contained therein.
The Court’s Decision
The court rejected Mr. McCabe’s defense and granted Neopost’s request for injunctive relief and the enforcement of the non-compete agreements. The court did not bother deciding the question of fact regarding the classification of Mr. McCabe’s termination. Provisions of a non-compete are automatically triggered upon termination, regardless of whether it is voluntary or involuntary in nature. The issue at hand and the focus of the court was the validity and enforceability of the non-compete agreements between Neopost and Mr. McCabe.
The court held that the non-compete agreements were assignable to Neopost USA following the merger, citing Connecticut law that “all property owned by, and every contract right possessed by, each corporation or other entity that merges into the survivor is vested in the survivor without reversion or impairment”. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-820(a)(4). In the event of a corporate merger, the surviving company holds title to all contracts and employment agreements of the predecessor companies and their provisions are valid and enforceable under Connecticut law.
The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.