In almost every trade secret/restrictive covenant dispute, a company whose trade secret information has been stolen must confront the possibility that its customers will be dragged into the dispute. One company decided to take the bull by the horns pre-litigation and sent a letter to all of its customers notifying them of a misappropriation by one of its former employees and “suggesting” that, to avoid potential involvement in any ensuing litigation “as a material witness, or otherwise,” the customers should not do business with the former employee.
Unsurprisingly, the former employee sued his former employer for defamation. The former employer brought a motion to strike the defamation complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which authorizes a court to dispose of lawsuits that are brought to chill “the valid exercise of constitutional rights,” such as the right of free speech. The trial court’s decision to grant the former employer’s anti-SLAPP motion and strike the defamation complaint was upheld yesterday by the Court of Appeal . See Neville v. Chudacoff, __ Cal.Rptr.3d __, 2008 WL 650658 (Cal.App. 2d. Dist. March 12, 2008).