By Marcus Mintz
In a recent case filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Mainline Information Systems, Inc. v. Fordham, No. 11-137, 2011 WL 2938435 (N.D. Fl. July 21, 2011), the plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction against an individual defendant for tortious interference with business relationships and for misappropriation of trade secrets. Plaintiff provides integrated IT solutions for businesses and other related products and services. Plaintiff contended that the defendant was soliciting more than 20 of its employees directly, and an additional 14 employees indirectly, to terminate their employment relationships with plaintiff and join a competing company. Plaintiff also argued that defendant was seeking to misappropriate its trade secrets through the solicitation of its employees.
The district court denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction because plaintiff failed to demonstrate a “substantial likelihood” that plaintiff would prevail on the merits of either of its two claims, for tortious interference or misappropriation of trade secrets. At bottom, the court found that plaintiff had run into court without the evidence to support its claims. The court specifically found that plaintiff introduced no witnesses to testify at the preliminary injunction hearing and only presented two affidavits in support of its application for injunctive relief. One such affidavit was dismissed as “threadbare” in that it only asserted that the allegations of the complaint were true and correct. The second affidavit was made by one of plaintiff’s senior vice presidents who stated that defendant had, directly and indirectly, solicited plaintiff’s employees. Neither affidavit was sufficient to meet plaintiff’s burden to obtain a preliminary injunction, particularly in light of the evidence put forth by the defendant that contradicted plaintiff’s claims.
In contrast to the plaintiff, the defendant testified at the hearing and denied contacting the majority of the employees that plaintiff claimed were solicited by the defendant. The defendant also presented evidence from several of the purportedly solicited individuals who stated they were never contacted by defendant. Based on the foregoing evidence put forth by defendant, which directly contradicted plaintiff’s second affidavit, the court denied the motion for preliminary injunction as it related to tortious interference. Similarly, because no evidence was presented regarding defendant’s use of any trade secrets, the preliminary injunction was also denied as to defendant’s misappropriation claim.
The court’s brief ruling is an instruction to would-be litigants that argument by itself is insufficient to obtain injunctive relief in Florida’s district courts.