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Summary judgment improper in non-compete clause appeal

Dave Stafford
September 30, 2013
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A trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of a former employer that sought to exercise a non-compete clause in the contract of an airline mechanic who went to work for another company.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the company and reinstated the worker’s claim of tortious interference with a contract in Joseph M. Guinn v. Applied Composites Engineering, Inc., 49A02-1303-CC-239.

Applied Composites Engineering demanded that Guinn be terminated after he was hired to work by AAR Aircraft Services. His contract with ACE had contained a “non-competition covenant” that said he could not work for any company “in the same of substantially similar business” as ACE for six months. AAR ultimately fired Guinn after ACE forwarded the non-compete language to AAR and threatened litigation.

“We conclude that the designated evidence presented by the parties demonstrates that a genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to whether or not ACE’s conduct in connection with Guinn’s employment relationship with AAR was justified or fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel. “Accordingly, we cannot conclude that ACE is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on Guinn’s claim for tortious interference.”

The panel that also included judges Paul Mathias and Edward Najam noted that “ACE and Guinn were not on equal footing in terms of sophistication or the ability to protect their interests,” and that Guinn wasn’t asked to sign the contract until about 10 months after he started working for the company. Guinn testified he was told the agreement was a formality and “didn’t necessarily apply” to mechanics but had to be on file.

Judges used the 33-page opinion to cite more than six decades of caselaw taking an unfavorable view of non-compete clauses. Brown reached back to Donahue v. Permacel Tape Corp., 234 Ind. 398, 411, 127 N.E.2d 235, 241 (1955), “noting that an employer ‘has no right to unnecessarily interfere with the employee’s following any trade or calling for which he is fitted and from which he may earn his livelihood and he cannot preclude him from exercising the skill and general knowledge he has acquired or increased through experience or even instructions while in the employment.’”

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  1. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

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  3. So this firebrand GOP Gov was set free by a "unanimous Supreme Court" , a court which is divided, even bitterly, on every culture war issue. WHAT A RESOUNDING SLAP in the Virginia Court's face! How bad must it have been. And all the journalists, lap dogs of the status quo they are, can do is howl that others cannot be railroaded like McDonald now??? Cannot reflect upon the ruining of Winston and Julia's life and love? (Oh I forget, the fiction at this Ministry of Truth is that courts can never err, and when they do, and do greatly, as here, why then it must be ignored, since it does not compute.)

  4. My daughter is a addict and my grandson was taken by DCS and while in hospital for overdose my daughter was told to sign papers from DCS giving up her parental rights of my grandson to the biological father's mom and step-dad. These people are not the best to care for him and I was never called or even given the chance to take him, but my daughter had given me guardianship but we never went to court to finalize the papers. Please I have lost my daughter and I dont want to lose my grandson as well. I hope and look forward to speaking with you God Bless and Thank You for all of your help

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