As reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly last week (subscription required), late last year a Middlesex County jury found a defendant company liable for over $1.3 million in damages to the plaintiff competing company in a case involving the plaintiff’s former employee. The plaintiff, an energy broker, alleged that its former employee, while working for the plaintiff, secretly affiliated with the competing company, another energy broker, to divert the plaintiff’s customers and one of its energy programs to the defendant company. The jury found the defendant company liable for aiding and abetting the plaintiff’s former employee in the breach of his fiduciary duties to the plaintiff and for tortiously interfering with the plaintiff’s relationship with its employee. The employee was also liable for $355,000, but that amount was offset by an award for the employee against the plaintiff. The verdict was only reported recently because a dispute over the form of judgment delayed the final judgment for several months.
This verdict shows that, although most noncompete-type cases are effectively resolved at an early stage by a judge deciding a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop an employee and a competing company from improperly harming a plaintiff’s business, sometimes these cases continue all the way through the trial phase, where big money might be at stake.