Four-Prong Test Applied to Enforce Non-Compete Provision in a Franchise Agreement
Money Mailer Franchise Corporation v. Wheeler, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2260
Mr. Douglas Wheeler entered into a Franchise Agreement with Money Mailer Franchise Corporation on February 28, 2003 wherein he was assigned a mailing territory comprised of thirteen zip codes in Fairfield and New Haven counties. Money Mailer was a business that franchised a system of providing direct mail order advertising and related services. The Franchise Agreement contained a covenant not to compete that prohibited Mr. Wheeler from engaging “in any Competitive Activities with the Territory [his thirteen zip codes] or within the territory of any other “Money Mailer” franchise then in operation” for a period of two years following termination. This essentially obligated Mr. Wheeler to not engage in any competing business enterprise within fifty miles of any Money Mailer franchise.
Mr. Wheeler sold his franchise to Mr. Javier Ferrer on October 31, 2007 for $130,000. He executed an additional non-compete agreement in connection with this transaction wherein he promised not to compete for three years following the closing of the deal. In February 2008, he began to work as an Independent Contractor for Direct Advantage, a direct competitor engaged in the same business(es) as Money Mailer. Money Mailer sued Mr. Wheeler for breach of the Franchise Agreement and requested that the court enforce the provisions contained in the non-compete agreement. Mr. Wheeler acknowledged that he was involved in the exact same business addressed and prohibited in the non-compete agreement and admitted to soliciting several of Money mailer’s previous and current customers.
The Connecticut state court granted Money Mailer’s request for injunctive relief and ordered the enforcement of the restrictive covenant. The court stated that the purpose of injunctive relief was to preserve the status quo of the parties until the case was definitively decided. It further noted the relevant standard of review for granting a request for an injunction and specified four factors: 1) no adequate remedy at law, 2) plaintiff would experience irreparable harm if the request was not granted, 3) plaintiff was likely to prevail on the merits of the case, and 4) an injunction would sustain the balance of the parties’ equities. The court concluded that Money Mailer’s case met all of these requisite factors and its complaint warranted relief in the form of a temporary injunction.
The court concluded that an injunctive order was necessary to balance the parties’ interests during the legal proceedings and that the temporary injunction would essentially restore the parties to their relative positions before the alleged violation of the non-compete agreement. Money Mailer was able to demonstrate that Mr. Wheeler’s actions had a detrimental impact its business interests. Additionally, the court found that Money Mailer was likely to prevail on the merits of its complaint, specifically citing that Mr. Wheeler’s own testimony provided abundant evidence of activities that should trigger the enforcement of the restrictive covenant. For these enumerated reasons, the court granted Money Mailer’s request for an injunction restraining Mr. Wheeler from further violations of the non-compete provisions contained in the Franchise Agreement executed between the parties in 2003.
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.