Jason M. Knott

  • Lighting the Dollar Tree

    | Jason M. Knott

    Today’s decision of interest, U.S. Electrical Services, Inc. v. Schmidt (D. Mass. June 19, 2012), involves everyone’s favorite strip-mall stop: the Dollar Tree. James Schmidt and Peter Colon wanted to sell lighting and fixtures to the Dollar Tree (presumably for more than $1.00). Their former employer, U.S. Electrical Services (USESI), wanted to stop them, because it wanted to bid on the same Dollar Tree lighting account and it didn’t want Schmidt and Colon using its confidential pricing information to make their bid. 

    At the time USESI sued, the account was up for bid in only a few days. So USESI didn’t just file a complaint and seek damages. Instead, it asked for a preliminary injunction barring Schmidt, Colon, and their new employer, Munro, from competing for the business.

  • General Release = Major Issue

    | Jason M. Knott

    For a high-level executive leaving a company under less-than-ideal conditions, it’s as common as handing in keys to security and shutting down the computer for the last time.  In exchange for a severance payment, the executive is asked to sign the typical general release: “I hereby release my employer from any claims, liabilities, demands, or causes of action . . .”

    Unsurprisingly, once an employee signs a general release, if he later sues, he is likely to face a quick motion to dismiss.  

  • The Inbox - June 6, 2012

    | Jason M. Knott

    The latest developments in suits by suits:

    • When Brian Wittenstein left his job as talent coordinator at Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling for TNA’s competitor, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he apparently took a lot of TNA confidential information with him.  Now TNA is brawling with WWE and Wittenstein in court.   TNA’s lawsuit acknowledges that WWE told TNA that Wittenstein had given it the confidential information and fired him.  But TNA alleges that WWE conspired with Wittenstein to get the documents, delayed for three weeks before it told TNA about the disclosures, and is now using the secret details of Nature Boy Ric Flair’s contract to solicit him to join WWE.
  • Ur(ologist) Out of Court

    | Jason M. Knott

    A key question looming over any lawsuit is, "Will the case go to trial?" Or, as lawyers usually put the issue, "Will the case survive summary judgment?" (For any laypeople reading this, summary judgment is a procedure for disposing of cases prior to trial if there are no meaningful disputes about the important facts—as lawyers put it, no “genuine issues of material fact.”)  Last week, a New York appellate court affirmed a grant of summary judgment against a urologist’s discrimination claim, holding that his employer successfully presented evidence of legitimate reasons for its adverse actions against him.  Melman v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 2012 N.Y. Slip. Op. 04111 (May 29, 2012).  The Melman decision shows how judges can agree on how to decide whether to grant summary judgment on such claims, yet still disagree on whether summary judgment ought to be granted.

  • The Inbox - May 16, 2012

    | Jason M. Knott

    Here's a roundup of this week's news involving suits by suits:

    • An insurance company can’t subpoena its former employees’ private e-mail and phone records from Yahoo and Verizon, says a U.S. magistrate judge. Judge Geraldine Brown ruled that the subpoenas violated the Stored Communications Act, which she said creates a zone of privacy to protect against disclosure to unauthorized parties. If the employees’ Yahoo inboxes are anything like mine, the subpoenas would have just turned up a bunch of spam anyway.  Courthouse News Service.
  • Welcome!

    | Marcus, Ellen and Jason M. Knott and Andrew P. Torrez and William A. Schreiner, Jr.

    Today we are launching Suits by Suits, a legal blog about disputes between companies and their executives. The four of us are colleagues and lawyers who sometimes wear suits and who sometimes represent clients who sometimes wear suits. We also share an interest in how conflicts between companies and high-ranking employees can play out in the legal arena.

    So, for example, when we see a headline about Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan’s lawsuit against ABC for wrongful termination – which, by the way, recently ended in a mistrial but has been set for a new trial to begin in September – we read the story. Then we dig deeper because, to us, this case is not just about a Hollywood celebrity, it is a suit by suit.

    We want to know whether the jury was persuaded by Ms. Sheridan’s theory that her character was killed off and she was written off the show because she complained about being assaulted on the set by the show’s creator Marc Cherry.

    We want to know whether the judge accepted Ms. Sheridan’s legal theory that being fired for complaining about an assault violates California public policy that employees have a right to a workplace free of violence and threats of violence.

    We want to know whether ABC was able to prove that its plans to kill off Ms. Sheridan’s character were hatched long before Ms. Sheridan complained about Mr. Cherry.

    We want to know whether there are any really devastating e-mails – to either side – and whether the jury is going to get to see them, or the judge will find them inadmissible.

    We want to know whether any D&O insurance is available to pay Mr. Cherry’s legal fees in the case. Okay, maybe Bill is the only one who wants to know that.

    Are we the only ones?

    Ellen, Jason, Andrew and Bill

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Contributing Editor


Andrew N. Goldfarb
Email | 202.778.1822