• Lighting the Dollar Tree

    | Zuckerman Spaeder Team

    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.

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  • This week in suits by suits:

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  • If you’ve had any sort of a working life, then you’ve been asked at least one odd question on a job interview.  My personal favorite is why manhole covers are round. [1]  But the oddest interview question I’ve ever been asked was: “Who was Saint Thomas Aquinas?”  In my panic and surprise, my mind confused its files labeled “English Religious leaders named Thomas from the Middle Ages,” and I described for my interviewer Sir Thomas More.  My interviewer – a leading lawyer at a very prestigious New York firm – sat silently for a moment, and then lectured me on how I apparently didn’t have the liberal arts background necessary to work at his firm. 

    Setting aside how happy I am, in retrospect, that I didn’t wind up working for someone who would grill me about medieval history, it is rare that any job interview question involves saints or other facets of religious belief.  Most employers don’t delve into that subject with candidates – either they don’t care to inquire, or they don’t believe religion (or lack of it) has any bearing on the quality of an employee’s work. 

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  • A few weeks ago, I sketched out the high-profile breach of contract dispute between Keith Olbermann and former Vice President Al Gore’s cable TV network, Current TV.

    Since then, Current TV has added a new talk show to be hosted by Joy Behar, and on-air host Cenk Uygur has obliquely responded to some of Olbermann’s criticisms that were made public by the filing of Olbermann’s lawsuit.  (Q: “Have you talked to Keith Olbermann since he left the network?”  A:  “Did I talk to Keith Olbermann before he left the network?  The answer to your question is no.”)  Oh, and Olbermann’s Countdown blog continues to be hosted on Current TV's website, although it (obviously) has not been updated since March 29, 2012 – Olbermann’s last day on the air.

    Last time, I highlighted the six breaches of contract alleged by Current that, if material and uncured, might justify Current’s decision to terminate Olbermann without paying him the nearly $40 million left on his contract.

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    • A federal trial court in Minnesota has dismissed an antitrust action filed by former football players against the NFL.  The players alleged that the NFL is monopolizing the market of their likenesses by using historical game footage featuring the players in promotional videos.  The court distinguished the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in American Needle, Inc. v. NFL,saying that the former football players failed to allege concerted action between the NFL and the teams that is illegal under the Sherman Act.  The court suggested that, even though the antitrust action would not go forward, the players may have claims against the NFL for violating their right of publicity.   
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  • In my last post, I made the case that new social media haven’t changed the issues that come up in legal disputes between companies and high-ranking employees.  But social media can add some new twists.  For instance, are a company’s Twitter followers the equivalent of a confidential client list, such that you would be “misappropriating” a company “trade secret” if you left and took the list with you? 

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  • Twitter and other social media may be transforming our world, but they haven’t changed laws and company policies against disclosing sensitive company information.  Take the recent firing – reported in The Inbox – by women’s clothing retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp. of its CFO, Gene Morphis.

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  • General Release = Major Issue

    | Zuckerman Spaeder Team

    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.  

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  • The Inbox - June 6, 2012

    | Zuckerman Spaeder Team

    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.  PWInsider.com.
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  • Ur(ologist) Out of Court

    | Zuckerman Spaeder Team

    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.

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As the regulatory and business environments in which our clients operate grow increasingly complex, we identify and offer perspectives on significant legal developments affecting businesses, organizations, and individuals. Each post aims to address timely issues and trends by evaluating impactful decisions, sharing observations of key enforcement changes, or distilling best practices drawn from experience. InsightZS also features personal interest pieces about the impact of our legal work in our communities and about associate life at Zuckerman Spaeder.

Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.

Contributing Editors
John J. Connolly

John J. Connolly
Partner
Email | +1 410.949.1149


Andrew N. Goldfarb

Andrew N. Goldfarb
Partner
Email | +1 202.778.1822


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Sara Alpert Lawson
Partner
Email | +1 813.321.8204


Nicholas M. DiCarlo

Nicholas M. DiCarlo
Associate
Email | +1 202.778.1835


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