Posts tagged with "speculation"

“Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine” Fails to Demonstrate Breach of Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements

“Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine” Fails to Demonstrate Breach of Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements
EarthWeb, Inc. v. Schlack, 71 F. Supp. 2d 299
EarthWeb, Inc. v. Schlack, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 11446

Mr. Mark Schlack worked for EarthWeb, Inc. from October 19, 1998 to September 22, 1999 as the company’s Vice President of Worldwide Content where he had overall editorial responsibilities for the company’s website. EarthWeb was started in 2004 and had 230 employees nationwide that provided online products and services to business professionals in the information technology (IT) industry. The company and Mr. Schlack signed an employment agreement on October 13, 1998 that contained non-disclosure and non-compete clauses. The restrictions prohibited Mr. Schlack from being an employee of a business entity that directly competed with EarthWeb for a period of twelve months after his termination. The agreement provided consideration in the form of Mr. Schlack’s salary, performance-based bonus, and stock options. Mr. Schlack tendered his resignation in September 1999 and informed his superiors at EarthWeb that he had accepted a position with ITworld.com, a subsidiary of IDG, another business connected to the IT industry.
EarthWeb sued Mr. Schlack in federal court and asked it to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent him from working for ITworld.com. EarthWeb sued in order to protect its confidential information and trade secrets related to several components of its business operations: 1) strategic content planning, 2) licensing agreements and acquisitions, 3) advertising, and 4) technical knowledge. The company argued that an injunction and the enforcement of the non-compete agreement were necessary to prevent disclosure of its trade secrets and confidential business information. The federal court denied EarthWeb’s request and the company appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (jurisdiction over Connecticut, New York, and Vermont). At the appellate level, the court affirmed the district court’s decision and held that the denial of the injunction and enforcement was proper given the facts of the case.
The Second Circuit had previously held that a demonstration of irreparable harm is the “single most important prerequisite for the issuance of a preliminary injunction”. Mamiya Co. v. Masel Supply Co., 719 F.2d 42, (1983). Disclosure of trade secrets and confidential information has traditionally been sufficient to show irreparable harm so long as the harm is imminent. The mere possibility of harm is insufficient and motions should be denied when the harm described in the complaint is remote and speculative. This case did not involve actual theft or misappropriation of confidential information, only the possibility of future disclosure. Mr. Schlack defended himself by asserting that the position awaiting him at ITworld.com was very different from his job at EarthWeb and that he would not have an occasion to divulge any of EarthWeb’s confidential information. Additionally, he claimed that EarthWeb’s complaint overstated his responsibilities and he was nowhere close to being a senior executive with access to vast amounts of confidential information.
EarthWeb had the burden to show that Mr. Schlack’s breach of the non-compete agreement would create irreparable harm. The appellate court held that the company had failed to establish that an injunction was reasonably necessary to protect its business interests. The company failed to produce any evidence that there was an imminent risk that Mr. Schlack would disclose EarthWeb’s confidential information while being employed at ITworld.com. The court stated that EarthWeb had relied on the “Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine”; a theory the court rejected and commented should only be applied in the rarest of circumstances. The doctrine heavily relies on speculation and “what ifs” to advance a request for injunctive relief for breach of a non-compete agreement. This doctrine employed insufficient concrete evidence that there would be a disclosure of confidential information and both the district and appellate courts denied EarthWeb’s request for injunctive relief in the form of enforcing the restrictive covenant.
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.

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Perpetrator Not “Beamed There By Martians” – Court Upholds Defendant’s Accessory Conviction

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that the State presented insufficient evidence that she participated in a plot to steal nearly a quarter of a million dollars from her employer.

This case involved the February 22, 2005 theft of approximately $248,000 in cash from a bank located in New Britain. The interior of the location has little public access, and employees must first be buzzed into or use their key to access a “mantrap” before proceeding through another door to the employee area. This section of the store contains a bathroom and the safe room, and the only exit is to proceed back through the mantrap.

The defendant was a store manager at the bank and was working alone for five and a half hours prior to closing. An hour before leaving the store, she received a phone call from a former district manager (former manager), who had been fired following a previous unsolved robbery at the bank years earlier. The defendant counted the money in the safe, after which she closed down the store and set the alarm. Approximately thirty minutes later, motion sensors and alarms were rapidly triggered in reverse order from the safe room to the front door. The bank owners called the defendant, who was in the vicinity of the bank, and asked her to allow police into the building. When police arrived, they found no evidence of forced entry, but the money was gone and the defendant did not look or act surprised.

Telephone records revealed that the phone call received by the defendant prior to closing the bank was made from a cell phone in New Britain. She received two more calls from numbers belonging to the former manager: the first from a landline in Manhattan only minutes after the incident; the second twenty minutes thereafter once again from the cell phone, this time placed from the New Haven area.

The defendant was subsequently arrested for accessory to larceny in the first degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree, and accessory to burglary in the third degree, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8, 53a-122(a)(2), 53a-48, and 53a-103. The State’s theory of the case was that the defendant knowingly permitted someone to stay behind in the employee area prior to her departure. The defendant argued that one of the employees working earlier that day “could have let someone into the bathroom unbeknownst to [her].” The prosecutor countered that this was unreasonable: “The idea of somebody sitting in this bathroom for five and one-half hours, waiting for business to close, is as ludicrous as saying that they were beamed there by Martians.” The defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence identifying her as a participant, and therefore the jury convicted her “on the basis of mere speculation.”

When a jury considers the facts presented in a case, they are permitted to make reasonable and rational inferences stemming from those facts. “When we infer, we derive a conclusion from proven facts because such considerations as experience, or history, or science have demonstrated that there is a likely correlation between those facts and the conclusion.” The more strained the correlation, the less reasonable the inference will be. In this case, the Appellate Court admitted that the evidence presented was scant, but still sufficient to support the convictions. The jury could reasonably infer that the defendant was knowingly involved in the scheme to steal the money from the bank, permitting someone to remain behind after she set the alarm and left for the night. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or accessory, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Court Considers Whether Reckless Driving Conviction Was Proper Under Revised Charge

In “Whether Driver Intended to Hit Victim or Not, It Was Still an Accident Under Connecticut’s Evading Responsibility Statute,” we learned that the intent of the defendant was not relevant to the meaning of “accident” for purposes of the evading responsibility statute. Regardless of which story the jury chose to believe, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant unintentionally struck the victim with his car.

This article focuses on whether or not the defendant succeeded on his claim that the trial court erred in denying his post-conviction motion on the charge of reckless driving. For an individual to be convicted of reckless driving in violation of General Statutes § 14-222(a), the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove in a reckless manner on highways, roads, school properties, and parking areas. However, in its substitute information, the State charged the defendant with reckless driving on a municipal road. As a result, the judge specifically instructed the jury, “In order for you to find the defendant guilty of reckless driving, the state must prove that… the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a municipal road…”

During the trial, the State offered an aerial map of the city in which the accident occurred, but this map did not indicate “what entity owned or maintained the streets it depicted, or whether the streets are private or open to the public.” In addition, there was no information on the map that would assist the jury with inferring such facts. Additional officer testimony left in question who maintained the road on which the accident occurred.

On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the revised charge of reckless driving, and the Appellate Court agreed. “The record… does not contain any evidence from which the jury, without resorting to speculation and conjecture, could infer that [the one-way street] was a municipal road.” Therefore, the Court found the trial court improperly denied the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal and reversed the reckless driving conviction.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility or reckless driving, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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