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Alpha Plastics, Inc. v. Corthell

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 25, 2014

ALPHA PLASTICS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BRYAN CORTHELL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, [Doc. No. 4]. Defendants oppose the Motion. The Court conducted a hearing on the Motion on August 25, 2014. No evidence was presented. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied, without prejudice.

Facts and Background[1]

Plaintiffs filed its verified Petition in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri on August 18, 2014, alleging Defendant had violated the terms of a non-compete agreement he had entered into with Plaintiff, Defendant's former employer.

Plaintiff is in the business of manufacturing and/or selling and marketing plastic bottles and jars in Missouri and other states. Defendant was employed by Plaintiff as a Plant Manager.

Defendant claims Defendant had access to confidential and highly sensitive non-public information and trade secrets. Further, Plaintiff avers that Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a Non-Compete Agreement as a condition of and in consideration for Defendant's employment.

Plaintiff further avers that the Non-Compete Agreement to which Defendant agreed provided that Defendant would not work for a competitor of Plaintiff's while employed with Plaintiff and for a year after termination of Defendant's employment with Plaintiff.

Defendant's employment with Plaintiff ended in July, 2014, when Defendant voluntarily terminated his employment. Defendant immediately began working for Poly-Tainer, Inc., a competitor of Plaintiff.

Plaintiff seeks to have a temporary restraining order entered restraining Defendant from working for Poly-Tainer.

Discussion

The clear, relevant factors to consider when assessing the propriety of temporary restraining orders include: (1) the likelihood of success on the merits; (2) the presence or risk of irreparable harm; (3) the balancing of the harms of granting or denying an injunction; and (4) the public's interest. CDI Energy Services v. West River Pumps, Inc., 567 F.3d 398, 401-402 (8th Cir. 2009), citing Dataphase Systems, Inc. v. C L Systems, Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). The party seeking injunctive relief bears the burden of proving these factors. Lankford v. Sherman, 451 F.3d 496, 503 (8th Cir.2006).

Plaintiffs contend that Defendant is in violation of the Non-Compete Agreement, and that by virtue of his violation, it is irreparably harmed. Defendant, however, argues that Plaintiff never signed the agreement, has unclean hands by its actions in inducing Defendant to join Plaintiff's workforce and that there is nothing Defendant knows that could be injurious to Plaintiff.

The irreparable harm factor focuses on the harm or potential harm to the plaintiff of defendant's conduct or threatened conduct. Dataphase, 640 F.2d at 114. A plaintiff seeking preliminary injunction must establish that it "is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 365, 374 (2008). Significantly, the Eighth Circuit has consistently held that irreparable harm occurs when a party has no adequate remedy at law, typically because its injuries cannot be fully compensated through an award of damages. General Motors Corp v. Harry Brown', LLC, 563 F.3d 312, 319 (8th Cir. 2009). An irreparable injury is an injury "of such a nature that money damages alone do not provide adequate relief." Hinz v. Neuroscience, Inc., 538 F.3d 979, 986 (8th Cir.2008). If damages will adequately compensate plaintiffs for their injury, injunctive relief is not appropriate. See Kelly v. Golden, 352 F.3d 344, 353 (8th Cir.2003).

It is well established that the absence of a finding of irreparable injury is alone sufficient ground for denying a preliminary injunction. "Failure to show irreparable harm is an independently sufficient ground upon which to deny a preliminary injunction." Watkins v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2003); see also General Motors Corp., 563 F.3d at 319; Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 506-07 (1959) ("The basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies."); Adam-Mellang v. Apartment Search, Inc., 96 F.3d 297, 299 (8th Cir.1996); "[t]he basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies." Bandag, Inc. v. Jack's Tire & Oil, Inc., 190 F.3d 924, 926 (8th Cir.1999) (quoting ...


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