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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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