Forum Shopping Non-Compete Claims
In late April Hewlett Packard hired EMC storage division president David Donatelli. Donatelli worked 22 years for EMC and made $17 million over the last three. The hire reportedly stunned the industry. As part of his new employment Donatelli was going to relocate to California.
Donatelli was first to the Courthouse and filed a lawsuit in California challenging the 12 month non-compete in his employment agreement. It reads:
For the twelve-month period following the effective date of your termination, for any reason, from the Company, you agree not to directly or indirectly compete with the Company … including any services … as an employee … to any entity that is developing, producing, marketing, soliciting or selling products or services competitive with products or services being developed, produced, marketed or sold by the Company as of the effective day of your termination.
California is generally considered an unfavorable venue for the enforcement of non-competes as previously discussed. In particular, California does not recognize the doctrine of inevitable disclosure. (Basically, the doctrine assumes that when an employee moves from one company to another she will inevitably disclose trade secrets obtained from the prior company.)
EMC filed its own lawsuit in Massachusetts and was initially successful in obtaining an injunction restricting Donatelli from taking the HP job. In it’s opinion, the Court rejected Donatelli’s argument that California law applies and gave no defference to the fact that his lawsuit was filed first in California. Donatelli’s argument that California law applies is undermined by the fact that there is a Massachusetts forum selection clause and choice of law provision in his employment agreement. Additionally, he is a resident of Massachusetts. A hearing is set for later in the month in the California case. How the California court will reconcile the Massachusetts ruling and Massachusetts law remains to be seen.
(H/T Brad Reese)