— One year ago, such a result was not even imaginable.
Earlier this month, Simas & Associates, Ltd. received notice from Superior Court
that a year-long and acrimonious "divorce" between an advanced technology business and a number of its former executives and professionals had been finalized, as a request for dismissal with prejudice had been entered on the underlying pleadings.
The matter featured speculative claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, customer lists, and proprietary information, and millions of dollars in damages. It also featured cross-claims tied to contracts
, disputes about the ownership of proprietary information, and quasi-espionage.
"Oh boy, this was a big fight right from the get-go," explained Justin D. Hein, Managing Attorney
. "I will remember it as it was really the first case brought on primarily by the Santa Rosa office
. It involved an ex parte
request for a temporary restraining order that needed to be opposed with only about 10 hours of notice from my clients."
The dispute centered around a small group of executives, sales professionals, and hands-on technicians who had grown weary of the direction of management from their employer. This group decided to start on their own, in a different geographical part of the start, targeting a completely different sub-group of their industry.
"Those in charge of the group were close with those that would remain in management," explained Hein. "And so, their thinking was that this would be no big deal. Just business."
Given the size of their former employer, the competition in the overall industry, and what their intent was in forming their own company, the group thought that their former employer would shrug their shoulders and move-on .They were, unfortunately, wrong.
"It was more like a fly-swatter," continued Hein. "The former employer thought that this was a coordinated action, given the parties involved. They thought that the competition started while they were still working for the employer. And they thought that the group was laying the groundwork of having their existing customers exit, eventually, to their new start-up. And after litigation was met with resistance, it exacerbated their assumptions."
Luckily, a review of the employment contract for each member of the group provided for alternative dispute resolution
of employment disputes.
"Essentially, this boiled down to allegations of a breach of the employment contract," explained Hein. "Some of my clients' counter-claims buttressed that fact. And after successfull petitioning the court for an order to mediate and arbitrate
, we got all of the parties to step off the litigation-gas-pedal."
Coordinating the mediation took time. It also resulted in some very beneficial premediation negotiations.
"What really helped both sides," Hein continued, "was stopping the litigation train. It helped both parties reassess their claims. Reassess their actual damages. And reassess the costs - both in attorney fees and encroaching on customers and vendors as deponents and witnesses - were the matter to be actually litigated. It was at that point that the parties likely realized that they were in the proverbial, 'only the lawyers win' situation."
ended up taking just a single business day.
"The parties actually were able to draft and enter into the settlement agreement with all terms on site," Hein continued. "If anything, the resulting agreement provided both parties with the certainty that had been lacking in the year it took to reach that point. And that certainty was probably the most valuable aspect, if anything."
For more information on Simas & Associates, Ltd. and its civil litigation services
, please visit our website at www.simasgovlaw.com