When Will A Florida Court Issue An Injunction To Enforce A Non-Compete Agreement?
Non-compete and non-solicitation agreements are valuable tools for Florida businesses looking to protect confidential information and customer relationships. If a business has proof that a former employee has violated such an agreement, they can ask a judge to issue a temporary injunction. In Florida, there are four things an employer must demonstrate to obtain such an injunction:
- The employer must establish a “substantial likelihood” that it will prevail on the merits of its case.
- The employer lacks an “adequate remedy at law.”
- The employer will likely suffer “irreparable harm” absent a temporary injunction.
- The injunction will “serve the public interest.”
Appeals Court Enjoins Propane Salesman Who Took Former Employer’s Customers With Him
A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, AmeriGas Propane, Inc. v. Sanchez, provides a helpful example of these standards in action. In this case a trial judge actually denied the employer’s request for a temporary injunction. But the Court of Appeals reversed in the employer’s favor.
Here are the basic facts of the case. The plaintiff is a company that sells propane and propane accessories to residential and commercial customers. The defendant previously worked as a salesperson and account manager for the defendant. As such, the defendant had access to a wide range of confidential business information, including customer lists.
In connection with his employment, the defendant also signed a non-competition, non-solicitation agreement. Essentially, the agreement stated the defendant would not protect and not disclose any confidential information he learned during his employment. Moreover, he agreed not to “directly or indirectly solicit the business” of any of the defendant’s customers for a period of two years after the end of his employment. He also agreed not to sell propane or propane accessories within 50 miles of any of the defendant’s offices during this two-year period.
The defendant voluntarily resigned his employment in 2019. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a sales position with one of the defendant’s competitors. This led to the loss of 18 of the plaintiff’s customers. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant for breach of contract.
In granting the plaintiff’s request for a temporary injunction, the Third District noted the defendant “admitted that he visited his former customers and told them to call him if they were having any issues with their current supplier,” i.e., the plaintiff. The appellate court said this was the very “definition of solicitation of former customers,” which was prohibited by the non-compete agreement.
The Third District further concluded the plaintiff met all of the other requirements for an injunction. The plaintiff had no other remedy at law, as monetary damages alone would not undo the damage caused by the defendant’s actions. The plaintiff also established a likelihood of irreparable harm to its business. Finally, enforcing the non-compete agreement was in the public interest as it “demonstrates that courts will uphold agreements.”
Contact a Florida Business Litigation Lawyer Today
Non-compete and non-solicitation agreements are like any other business contract. They bind both sides and there may be times where they need to be enforced in court. If you are involved in this type of dispute and need legal advice from a qualified Sarasota business litigation attorney, contact Suncoast Civil Law today.