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COA: Restrictive covenant is overly broad and unreasonable

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The restrictive covenant a former employee of a high-end appliance sales company signed before leaving to join another high-end sales company is overly broad and unreasonable, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Thursday.

Clark’s Sales & Service Inc. appealed the order denying its motion for a preliminary injunction as to the restrictive covenant Clark’s sought to enforce against former employee, John D. Smith, and his new employer, Ferguson Enterprises Inc. Smith worked for Clark’s for nearly 14 years before joining Ferguson, which also sells high-end appliances, but principally sells plumbing and lighting.

The trial court found the covenant to be overly broad and restrictive because it prevents Smith from working directly or indirectly in any capacity for any other entity that seeks to solicit or provide services to any entity that was a customer of Clark’s during the 14 years Smith worked there. The Court of Appeals agreed in Clark's Sales and Service, Inc v. John D. Smith and Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., 49A02-1306-PL-552, also finding the geographical scope of the covenant to be unreasonable.

Clark’s contended then that the appeals court should utilize the blue pencil doctrine and strike the portions of the covenant that are unenforceable, leaving in place some of the restrictions.

“Here, Clark’s had a fair opportunity to draft a reasonable and enforceable restrictive covenant yet failed to do so. The overly broad and unenforceable covenant that Clark’s did draft is not clearly separated into divisible parts or severable in terms such that we can mechanically strike unreasonable restrictions and enforce reasonable ones,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. “The restrictions are unreasonable as a whole. Therefore, we conclude that the blue pencil doctrine is inapplicable, as it would subject the parties to an agreement that they did not make.  Accordingly, we agree with the trial court that Clark’s has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence its likelihood of success at trial. The trial court’s denial of Clark’s motion for preliminary injunction is affirmed.”

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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