New York Supreme Court Justice Debra James has issued a preliminary injunction restraining a former employee of a dog care business, which provides services such as dog walking, feeding and grooming, from competing with his former employer within a ten (10) mile radius of his former employer’s business. The action is entitled The Paw Shop, LLC v. Brian Mestre, New York County Supreme Court, Index No.: 601950/08, and Justice James’s order has likely left the Defendant growling. 

Defendant commenced employment with Plaintiff in January 2007 as a receptionist, kennel manager, driver and assistant dog trainer. On July 27, 2007, Defendant signed an “Employee Non-Compete Agreement,” which included a two year, ten (10) mile radius restrictive covenant against direct competition with Plaintiff. The covenant was to be effective from the date of termination, and the restrictive radius was to be measured from the location of Plaintiff’s business at the time of termination; the covenant was to be effective regardless of the reason of Defendant’s termination. At the time of entering into the non-compete agreement, Defendant received a pay-raise as consideration.

Defendant’s employment was terminated in May 2008, and Plaintiff shortly thereafter commenced the action and moved for the preliminary injunction enforcing the restrictive covenant, alleging that the Defendant had been observed performing dog walking services for the Plaintiff’s clients within the restricted radius.

In granting Plaintiff’s motion, Justice James found that the duration and scope of the restrictive covenant were not “unduly burdensome to the defendant.” Although silent as to its reasoning with regards to the duration, the Court found that the ten (10) mile radius was reasonable because: “defendant lives more than ten miles away from plaintiff’s business, and during the period of the covenant may certainly provide services to dog owners in the neighborhood where he resides.”

The Court found that the Defendant’s services were likely to be “unique” and/or “extraordinary,” by reason of affidavits of former customers of Plaintiff averring such. Ironically, these affidavits were submitted by Defendant in opposition to the motion. Surprisingly, given the result, the Court found that Plaintiff had failed to make a showing that Defendant had either used Plaintiff’s customer lists or used confidential client information. Regardless of this lack of showing, however, the Court nevertheless granted the preliminary injunction, citing holding finding that Plaintiff was being irreparably harmed by Defendant’s providing dog walking services to Plaintiff’s clients within the restricted area.