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Justices take certified questions

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The Indiana Supreme Court has accepted three certified questions stemming from a case in the Southern District of Indiana.

In Loparex LLC v. MPI Release Technologies LLC, et al., No. 1:09-CV-01411, Loparex sued its competitor and two former employees for trade secret misappropriation and related causes of action. The defendants counterclaimed, alleging Loparex violated an Indiana statute that prohibits blacklisting of employees.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims brought by Loparex. The remaining claims before the court are brought by defendants Gerald Kerber and Stephan Odders, former employees of Loparex, under Indiana’s anti-blacklisting statute, Indiana Code 22-5-3-2.

The judge sent three certified questions to the Supreme Court in September:

1)    Is Wabash Railroad Co. v. Young, 69 N.E. 1003 (Ind. 1904), still good law, such that individuals who voluntarily leave employment are precluded from pursuing a claim under I.C. 22-5-3-2?
2)    In an action brought under I.C. 22-5-3-2, are attorney fees incurred in defending an unsuccessful claim against a former employee or in prosecuting a claim by a former employee recoverable as compensatory damages?
3)    Is an unsuccessful suit to protect alleged trade secrets, within which a former employer seeks to preclude any competitive employment of a former employee by pursuing permanent injunctive relief and in settlement negotiations, a basis for recovery under I.C. 22-5-3-2?

In her order requesting certification, Magnus-Stinson wrote, “Several issues of unsettled state law will control the disposition of the remaining claims. One concerns the continuing precedential value of a century-old Indiana Supreme Court ruling. Another lacks any clear controlling Indiana precedent. The third seeks an extension of Indiana common law limiting the application of the anti-blacklisting statute.”

The justices accepted the certified questions in a Sept. 30 order. Briefs are due Oct. 27.
 

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