Posts tagged with "Stamford"

Change in Business Services/Products Doesn’t Invalidate a Non-Compete Agreement

DiscoveryTel SPC, Inc. v. Pinho, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2683

In 2002, DiscoveryTel SPC hired Mr. Ismael Pinho as its chief financial officer (CFO) as an at will employee.  The parties later executed an employment agreement on December 27, 2004 that would go into effect January 1, 2005.  The employment contract modified Mr. Pinho’s employment from at will to a one-year automatic renewable basis and outlined his salary, incentive bonuses, vacation, personal days, insurances, severance package, and several restrictive covenants.

Mr. Pinho was prohibited from directly or indirectly competing with DiscoveryTel by being involved in the purchase and/or sale of international voice and traffic data systems during the term of the employment agreement or during any period for which he was receiving severance pay.  Additionally, the agreement stated that he was bound by an indefinite non-disclosure clause pertaining to DiscoveryTel’s confidential and proprietary information.

In between 2004 and 2010, DiscoveryTel experienced a corporate reorganization and shifted its focus and the services it provided.  By 2010, it was no longer engaged in the purchase and/or sale of international voice and data traffic but instead facilitated the sale of telephone traffic.

The Defense’s Argument

Mr. Pinho informed the president of DiscoveryTel in a May 21, 2010 letter that he had accepted a position with World Telecom Exchange Communications, LLC (WTEC) and would be starting at the new company on June 1, 2010.  DiscoveryTel brought suit and requested that the court grant its request for an injunction to prevent any violations of the restrictive covenants in connection to Mr. Pinho’s new employment.  Mr. Pinho did not have an issue with the non-disclosure clause in the employment contract but asserted that his mere employment with WTEC was not a violation of the non-compete agreement.

He contended that the agreement did not prohibit working for a competitor but rather specifically from “being involved in ‘any business relating to the purchase and sale of international voice and data traffic’”.  He went on to argue that engaging in this sector of the industry should not violate a non-compete agreement because DiscoveryTel was no longer engaged in that specific industry activity.  Additionally, he argued that the agreement had inadequate consideration and was therefore unenforceable.

The Court’s Findings

The court found these arguments unconvincing however and granted DiscoveryTel’s request for injunctive relief and restrained Mr. Pinho from working for WTEC until December 31, 2010 (the end of the current employment term) in order to prevent further violations of the non-compete agreement.  It looked to the modification in the nature of Mr. Pinho’s employment (from at will to a contract renewable on an annual basis) and enhanced benefits (mainly the introduction of a severance package) in the employment agreement to conclude that there was sufficient consideration.

Finally, the court analyzed whether Mr. Pinho’s activities as an employee of WTEC violated the covenant, taking into account DiscoveryTel’s reorganization and shift in focus.  The court ultimately held that Mr. Pinho had indeed violated the non-compete agreement by working at WTEC and that a mere change in business services/products did not render the non-compete agreement invalid or release Mr. Pinho from its obligations.


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.

Assignability of Non-Compete Agreements Under Connecticut Law in the Event of a Merger

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.

The Dispute

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.

Court Invalidates Non-Compete Agreement for Unreasonable Restrictions

Trans-Clean Corp. v. Terrell, 1998 Conn. Super. LEXIS 717

Trans-Clean Corp. was a company engaged in the business of restoring exteriors and interiors of commercial buildings.  The company began to employ Mr. Alton Terrell as a salesman and manager in December 1990 in connection with the company’s acquisition of Travel Washer, Inc..  The parties executed an employment agreement that created a one-year term of employment, specified the compensation schedule, and contained a non-competition covenant.  The non-compete agreement stated that Mr. Terrell was prohibited for two years following the completion of his employment contract or any renewal thereof from competing with Trans-Clean within sixty miles of the company’s main office in Stratford, CT.

The parties negotiated a pay increase in 1993 and a new compensation schedule was created.  Trans-Clean considered this a renewal of the original employment contract and held the belief that the non-compete agreement was still valid and in effect.  Mr. Terrell however did not share the same view and did not treat the pay increase and new compensation schedule as a renewal of the original contract.  While the parties had different interpretations of the pay increase, there were no direct discussions to clarify its characteristics.

The Dispute

Mr. Terrell suddenly resigned from Trans-Clean in September 1997 and proceeded to create his own commercial restoration company and solicited business from individuals/businesses on Trans-Clean’s customer list.  Trans-Clean sued Mr. Terrell and asked the court to issue an injunction to enforce the non-compete agreement and prevent any further violations.  The court had to tackle two central issues to decide the dispute: 1) whether customer lists are protected trade secrets and 2) the nature and reasonableness of the employment contract and non-compete agreement.  It held that the lists were not trade secrets that entitled Trans-Clean to an injunction and further concluded that the non-compete agreement was unreasonable and unenforceable.

The court held that the customer lists were not trade secrets or confidential information that required protection.  There was never a company policy to designate the lists as confidential information or maintain a degree of secrecy of customers or contact persons.  Furthermore, each salesperson maintained his or her own personal contact lists and did not have any direct access to other sales representatives’ lists.  Each salesperson had the responsibility of developing his or her list, maintaining business relationships, and collecting accounts.  These lists did not amount to a business interest for which Trans-Clean was entitled to protection and injunctive relief.

Reasonableness of the Covenant

Next, the court assessed the reasonableness of the covenant not to compete and found that its provisions, specifically the geographical restriction, were unreasonable and unenforceable.  The sixty-mile radius restriction covered 75% of Connecticut, including the state’s six major metropolitan areas (Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Stamford, and Danbury), and extended into parts of New York (including four out the five boroughs) and New Jersey.  The restriction, according to the court, was overreaching and unnecessarily infringed on Mr. Terrell’s ability to purse his occupation and obtain future employment.  He had twenty years of experience in the commercial restoration industry and it was the only field in which he had ever worked.

Renewal of the Original Agreement

Lastly, the court analyzed whether the pay increase and modification of the compensation schedule amounted to a renewal of the original agreement.  The court stated there was a “question of fact” that it needed to answer in order to decide the case.  It noted that the writing drawn up by the company regarding the pay increase did not make any reference to the original employment contract and there was no apparent connection between the two writings.

In the absence of any reference or connection, the court concluded that the pay increase was not a renewal or extension of the original employment contract.  The court noted however that Mr. Terrell “should be bound by the non-compete agreement if that agreement is found to be reasonable”.  The court’s earlier analysis revealed that the covenant was in fact unreasonable, thereby overriding Mr. Terrell’s obligation to abide by its provisions.


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.

$65,000 Settlement from Trampoline Injury

The family of a seven year old boy from Naugatuck secured a $65,000 settlement after their son was injured using a neighbors Hedstrom trampoline.

The seven year child fractured his arm requiring it to be set, but fortunately he recovered without any permanent injuries from the accident.  Trampoline injuries are extremely common and some injuries can be very serious, sometimes fatal.

Donald McPherson of Glen Ellyn, Illinois an outstanding gymnastics/trampoline national expert who has testified in over 400 trampoline/gymnastics cases was hired by the family of the injured boy to offer testimony on the standard of care place on trampoline owners.

He opined that in that case the homeowner violated the “one jumper at a time” rule, allowing four jumpers.  There were too many jumpers causing trampoline reverberation, there was no supervised trained gymnastics expert monitoring the child and multiple jumpers caused convergence in the center of the trampoline. Trampoline manufacturers place use warnings on the trampolines which provide notice to the homeowners of safety use standards.

In Connecticut a land possessor has a duty to safeguard children from danger from a structure or artificial condition on the premises. If a child can’t comprehend the risk of harm and the condition poses an unreasonable risk of harm to a child, the land possessor must protect the child using reasonable care to eliminate the danger.

It is important to recognize many homeowner liability policies exclude coverage for trampoline use.

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Court Modifies Geographical Restriction in order to Enforce a Non-Compete Contract

Eastcoast Guitar Center, Inc. v. Tedesco, 2000 Conn. Super. LEXIS 320

Eastcoast Guitar Center, Inc. was a company based in Danbury, CT and employed Mr. Richard Tedesco as a sales/customer service representative from 1997 to 1999.  The company had Mr. Tedesco sign a non-compete contract on January 27, 1997 that prohibited him for one year following his termination from competing directly or indirectly with Eastcoast Guitar within a one hundred mile radius of the store’s location at 25 Hayestown Road, Danbury, CT.

This provision created a protected/prohibited area that included the entire state of Connecticut and extended into portions of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.  Eastcoast Guitar terminated Mr. Tedesco’s employment on August 16, 1999 and he began to operate his own company known as Guitar Hangar, an internet-based guitar sales company.  Eastcoast Guitar sued Mr. Tedesco in Connecticut state court for violation of the non-compete contract and requested that the court issue an injunction to enforce the restrictions and prevent further violations of the covenant.

The Court’s Decision

The court found in favor of Eastcoast Guitar and enforced the non-compete contract on a modified basis.  In its analysis, the court applied the five-prong test to assess the enforceability of the non-compete contract as stated in Robert S. Weiss & Associates, Inc. Wiederlight, 208 Conn. 525 (1988).  Specifically, the court looked at: 1) the scope of the time restriction, 2) the scope of the geographical restriction, 3) the protection afforded to the employer, 4) the restraint of the employee’s ability to obtain future employment, and lastly 5) the extent the agreement interfered with the public’s interest.  All of these factors must be reasonable in order for a plaintiff to be entitled to injunctive relief in a legal dispute.

The court, after reviewing all the evidence and testimony, found that the agreement satisfied the factors with exception of the geographical restriction.  It recognized that the company had a valid business interest that deserved protection and as such changed the geographical restriction from one hundred miles to thirty miles and ordered that the agreement be enforced.  The one hundred mile radius was too broad and overreaching according to the court and it felt that its modification of the restriction to prohibit only Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven counties was reasonable and legally acceptable 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.

Court Enforces Non-Compete Clause Against Real Estate Agent

Century 21 Access America v. McGregor-Mclean, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3239

Century 21 Access America is a national real estate company that employed Ms. Tori McGregor-Mclean as a real estate agent in it Bridgeport, CT office from July 2003 to June 16, 2004.  Her employment contract, dated July 7, 2003, contained a non-compete clause that prohibited her for a two-year period following termination from engaging in competing business activities within a fifteen-mile radius of 3850 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT.  Ms. McGregor-Mclean voluntarily terminated her employment on June 16, 2004 and began to work for Buyer’s Capitol Real Estate, a company located outside of the fifteen-mile radius in Stamford, CT.

Century 21 did not have a problem with her new employment because the office was located outside of the prohibited area but issues arose when Ms. McGregor-Mclean began accepting listings within the fifteen-mile radius.  Century 21 sued Ms. McGregor-Mclean in Connecticut state court for violation of the non-compete clause and requested that the court issue an injunction to enforce the agreement.

The Court’s Decision

The court found that Ms. McGregor-Mclean’s activities with her new real estate agency were in fact violations of the non-compete agreement and it ordered that the provisions be enforced.  The plain language of the non-compete clause stipulated that Ms. McGregor-Mclean was prohibited from carrying out any direct or indirect competing business activities within the defined fifteen-mile radius.  She was in breach of the agreement because she accepted five listings within the prohibited area- it is inconsequential as a matter of law that her office was located outside of the fifteen-mile radius.

Under the agreement, she was prohibited from having a physical business presence and transacting individual deals within the defined area.  The court identified the unlawful breaches of the non-compete clause, concluded that the agreement was valid and reasonable, and issued an injunction to enjoin Ms. McGregor-Mclean from further violations of the covenant not to compete.


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.

ERISA Claim Challenges Vague Language of FINRA Arbitration Award in order to Include Back Pay as Benefits-Eligible Compensation

Ronald A. Roganti  v .Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et el, 2012 WL 2324476 (S.D.N.Y.  June 18, 2012)

In a case before the Southern District of New York, Ronald Roganti (“Roganti”), a former employee of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”), asserted claims under the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. § 1514A (“SOX”), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (“ERISA”). Both claims challenge MetLife’s denial of Roganti’s request that a 2010 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) arbitration award be treated as benefits-eligible compensation.  MetLife moved to dismiss both claims on several grounds.  The court granted MetLife’s motion with respect to the SOX claim and denied the motion with respect to the ERISA claim.

Case Background

The underlying dispute in this case arose during Roganti’s employment with MetLife, which lasted from 1971 to 2005.  In 1999, Roganti began to voice concerns regarding allegedly-suspect business practices at MetLife and continued to do so until he terminated his employment in 2005.   Roganti claimed that throughout that time period, MetLife repeatedly disregarded his complaints and actively retaliated against him, including undermining his authority within the business subsets he oversaw and reducing his compensation with the specific purpose of reducing his pension benefits.

In July 2004, Roganti filed his initial Statement of Claim with the National Association of Securities Dealers (“NASD”) to arbitrate his disputes with MetLife.  FINRA, the successor to NASD, appointed a panel of three arbitrators to adjudicate four claims brought by Roganti: (1) the breach of contract claim, based on MetLife’s reduction of Roganti’s compensation; (2) violation of SOX retaliation provisions, based on MetLife’s retaliation against Roganti for reporting questionable business practices; (3) for the value of services rendered by Roganti; and (4) for violating ERISA, on the theory that, in reducing Roganti’s compensation, MetLife also sought to reduce his pension benefits.

In August 2010, the FINRA panel held that MetLife was liable to Roganti for $2,492,442.07 in “compensatory damages … above [MetLife’s] existing pension and benefit obligation to Claimant.” The arbitral award explain neither how the arbitrators arrived at this sum nor for what the award was intended to compensate Roganti. FINRA Docket Number 04-04876.

Benefits Claim

On March 24, 2011, Roganti filed a benefits claim with MetLife, in its capacity as the Plan Administrator, asking that the arbitral award be treated as compensation for income which MetLife had improperly denied him, and that the award be factored into the calculation of the benefits which he was entitled to under his pension plan with MetLife. MetLife denied the request for three reasons.

First, only income of current employees was benefits-eligible; therefore, since Roganti was not employed by MetLife when he received the award; therefore, it did not qualify as benefits-eligible compensation.  Second, FINRA broadly termed the award as “compensatory damages” rather than stating it was compensation for lost income.  Finally, the FINRA award did not indicate to which years of Roganti’s employment the award applied; therefore, even if the award represented unpaid income, it would be impossible for MetLife to determine concretely how the award should affect Roganti’s pension benefits. Roganti appealed this decision to MetLife, and MetLife again denied his claim.  Subsequently, Roganti filed SOX and ERISA claims in federal district court.

Because Roganti’s current SOX and ERISA claims are based on the 2011 denial of pension benefits, the court determined that these have not already been dispositioned by the 2010 FINRA arbitration.  Therefore, the court denied MetLife’s motions to dismiss both claims on grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel.  However, because Roganti did not exhaust administrative remedies before filing his SOX claim in federal district court, the court determined that his SOX claim must be dismissed.

ERISA Claims

Roganti made two claims under ERISA, which creates a private right of action to enforce the provisions of a retirement benefits plan. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B).  First, he alleged that the FINRA arbitral award compensated him for unpaid wages that resulted from MetLife’s retaliation against him.  Second, he argued that because the award constituted back pay, it must be taken into account in calculating his pension benefits.  The court determined that central to both claims is the issue of whether the FINRA arbitration award constitutes back pay to compensate Roganti for services rendered while he was a MetLife employee, which would properly be included in pension benefits calculations.

The Court’s Decision

Neither the brevity of the FINRA arbitration award nor Roganti’s statement of claims to FINRA provided the court with sufficient clarity to resolve the factual issue of exactly what the award represented. The court, therefore, construed the ambiguity in the award language in the light most favorable to Roganti.  The court concluded that he had met his burden and denied MetLife’s motion to dismiss the ERISA claim.

Because the three-month timeframe to seek clarification from a FINRA arbitration panel pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 12 had elapsed, the court ordered the ERISA Plan Director to closely review the arbitral record, in the context of the evidence offered and arguments made by both sides at the arbitration, to determine whether or not the award represented back pay for Roganti.  The court found it unacceptable that the initial denials of benefits were based on the terse language of the arbitration award, rather than a more detailed analysis as to what the award amounts represented.


Should you have any questions relating to FINRA, employment, compensation or benefits issues please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County, Connecticut at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Implied Duty to Not Disclose Accounts and Trade Secrets and Exceptions to the Rule

Booth Waltz Enterprises v. Kimlingen, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2682

Booth Waltz Enterprises was an automotive and industrial lubricant distributor based in Hartford, Connecticut that transacted with auto dealers, fleet owners, and public entities.  Mr. Kevin Kimlingen worked for Booth Waltz as a sale representative from April 2000 to October 2003.  Booth Waltz’s management was impressed by Mr. Kimlingen’s practice of “rolling”, the art of convincing his customers to follow him to a new employer.  He “rolled” forty-five accounts to Booth Waltz within his first month at the company.

Booth Waltz took advantage of Mr. Kimlingen’s talents to acquire many new clients when the company hired him but it was very cognizant that it would have to take measures to protect its interests given his history of mobility and “rolling” within the industry.  In the summer of 2003, Booth Waltz prepared a non-solicitation agreement for its employees to better regulate the activities of its sales staff.  Mr. Kimlingen expressed great reluctance to sign the restrictive covenant when he received it in October 2003 and Booth Waltz assumed he resigned from its employ when he failed sign the agreement or attend a mandatory staff meeting.

Customer Solicitation 

Mr. Kimlingen began to work for U.S. Lubes, a direct industry competitor, and he began “rolling” his Booth Waltz accounts to his new employer.  Booth Waltz sued Mr. Kimlingen in Connecticut state court and sought injunctive relief to prevent any further solicitations of its customers.  Booth Waltz argued that although Mr. Kimlingen may not have breached an actual restrictive covenant, his actions violated the Connecticut Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which by default prohibited certain competitive activities.

The company argued that the customer lists Mr. Kimlingen took with him to his new employer was Booth Waltz’s sensitive and proprietary information.  Former employees may compete with a former employer in the absence of a non-compete agreement, but her or she is still bound by a duty to not disclose trade secrets or confidential information acquired during his or her employment to the detriment of the former employer.

The Court’s Decision

The court ultimately held that Mr. Kimlingen did not violate a covenant or implied duty by “rolling” clients from Booth Waltz to U.S. Lube.  A vast majority of these account had long-standing relationships with Mr. Kimlingen that pre-dated his employment with Booth Waltz.  The court concluded that these customer relationships were not property of Booth Waltz and the company had no authority or legal right to label the contact information as its proprietary information.

The court noted, “in the absence of a covenant not to compete, an employee who possessed the relevant customer information prior to the former employment is free to use the information in competition with the employer after termination of the employment relationship” (Restatement (Third), Unfair Competition § 42, comment f), and denied Booth Waltz’s request for an injunctive in light of no legally binding restrictive covenant or an implied duty.


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.

Car Accident Victim Wins $8.5 Million Despite Facebook Posts

A driver who was hit by a truck and whose wife died in the accident had his multi-million dollar award upheld even though new evidence showed that before the trial he erased incriminating evidence on his Facebook page.

Isaiah Lester and his wife Jessica were riding in a car in 2007 when a cement truck driven by William Donald Sprouse crossed the center line. The truck tipped over and crushed the Lesters’ vehicle. Jessica was killed in the accident. Sprouse pled guilty to manslaughter based on investigators’ evidence that he was speeding.

In Lester’s civil suit against the owner of the cement truck, Allied Concrete, a jury ruled in his favor and awarded him a total of $8.5 million, plus $2 million to Jessica’s parents.

The concrete company asked for a new trial after it was discovered that before trial Lester’s attorney, Matthew B. Murray, had asked him to “clean up” his Facebook profile. Lester deleted 16 photos that were later recovered, including one in which Lester was holding a beer can and wearing a garter belt on his head and wearing a t-shirt that said “I [heart] hot moms.”

After the trial, the judge refused to allow a new trial just because of the Facebook profile, but cut $4 million off the verdict for other reasons, finding that Lester played on the jury’s sympathies by crying during opening and closing statements.

But in the final say on the matter, the Virginia Supreme Court did not find those factors should reduce the verdict or warrant a new trial. The court reinstated Lester’s entire $8.5 million verdict.

By: Sylvia Hsieh, Lawyers.com

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a motor vehicle accident, driving laws, or a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Court Grants Motion for Transfer to California District Court in Non-Compete Agreement Dispute

United Rentals, Inc. v. Pruett, 296 F. Supp.2d 220

United Rentals, Inc. was a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Connecticut that employed Mr. Lawrence Pruett from May 2001 until August 2003 in its San Juan Capistrano, CA office.  He first worked as a salesperson and then the company promoted him to branch manager.  Mr. Pruett signed an Employment Agreement after verbally accepting the branch manager position wherein he agreed to restrictive covenants preventing employment with a competitor, soliciting the company’s customers, or from disclosing trade secrets.  The agreement contained a choice of law provision that stated Connecticut law would govern legal disputes arising from the agreement and that courts (federal or state) in Fairfield County had exclusive jurisdiction.

Mr. Pruett abruptly resigned in August 2003, began to work for one of United’s competitors, Brookstone Equipment Services, and allegedly solicited United’s customers.  United Rentals sued Mr. Pruett in federal court for violation of the non-compete agreement and requested that the United States District Court of Connecticut enforce the provisions of the agreement.  Mr. Pruett however submitted motions to dismiss and to transfer the case to a court in California, where he lived and worked.

Motion to Dismiss

The court denied Mr. Pruett’s motion to dismiss but granted his motion for transfer, handing the case over to the Central District of California.  The central issues of the case were the enforceability of the forum selection clause and the court’s ability to transfer the case to another district court.  Mr. Pruett argued that it was unenforceable because he “lacked notice of its existence, because the clause is unreasonable, and because it was the product of United’s overreaching”.

The court mentioned two United States Supreme Court cases, M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), and Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991) to establish the federal judicial system’s attitude toward forum selection clauses and their enforceability.  In Bremen, the court held that the clauses are valid and enforceable so long as there is no showing that it would be unreasonable or unjust.  This case reversed American courts’ “long-standing hostility to forum selection clauses”.  In Carnival, the court held that a forum selection clause was enforceable only if both parties were aware of its existence.

In the current case, the court denied the motion to dismiss and found that the clause was reasonable and that the written contract had indeed provided Mr. Pruett with adequate notice of its existence.

Motion for Transfer

The court did however grant Mr. Pruett’s motion for transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) which authorizes district courts to transfer civil action to other districts “for the convenience of parties and witness, [and] in the interest of justice”.  In reaching this decision, the court analyzed the convenience of the parties, the existence of the forum selection clause, and factors of systemic integrity and fairness.

Mr. Pruett bore the burden of proof to show that the transfer was in the best interest of justice and the court concluded that he meant his burden.  All the witnesses for the case lived in California, the actions that led to the suit took place in California, and the vast majority of documentary evidence (sales records, advertising information, customer lists, etc.) was in California.  With regard to justice, United Rentals asserted that a transfer to a district court in California would deprive it of uniform treatment of its employment contracts.

The court recognized that Connecticut and California law greatly differ on their treatment of non-compete agreements but concluded that California had a materially greater interest in the case “because the impact of this litigation will be felt entirely in California”.  Furthermore, the court noted that California had a right to apply its own laws in order to protect its residents from anti-competitive measures by out-of-state employers that are contrary to California’s established public policy.

This case demonstrates that the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice can at times outweigh a contractual forum selection clause.  The court analyzed these factors and concluded that the facts surrounding the case favored a transfer of venues to a district court in California.

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.