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Movement Mortgage, LLC v. Ward

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 5, 2014

MOVEMENT MORTGAGE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
JARED WARD; JUAN CARLOS KELLEY; JASON STEGNER; and NEW PENN FINANCIAL, LLC., Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT J. CONRAD, Jr., District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before this Court on Plaintiff Movement Mortgage, LLC's (Movement) Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 4), which was filed on January 23, 2013. On February 5, 2013, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Defendants Ward, Kelley, Stegner and New Penn Financial (New Penn), enjoining various actions for fourteen (14) days. (Doc. 13). On February 7, 2013, Defendants moved, collectively, to dissolve the TRO and to oppose the preliminary injunction. (Docs. 22, 23). Plaintiff responded on February 18, 2013 and Defendants replied the same day. (Docs. 28, 29).

On February 19, 2013, the Court conducted a hearing on the respective motions at which it extended the existing order for an additional fourteen (14) days. The issues in the aforementioned motions are ripe for adjudication.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this case have been outlined in the order issued by this Court on February 5, 2013. (Doc. 13). They are incorporated here and need not be revisited in detail. (See Id.).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Relevant Agreements

New Penn is a corporate entity and Plaintiff has not alleged any existing agreement whereby New Penn agreed to restrict its business activities. Here, the agreements at issue are between the individual Defendants, now employees of New Penn, and Movement, their former employer. The agreements for the individual Defendants, in relevant parts, are summarized as follows:

Jared Ward: Signed February 29, 2012. (Doc. 11-2 at 3). The agreement contains three provisions relevant here: (1) restricting soliciting, inducing, or advising Movement employees to terminate employment with Movement for work with a competitor for 12 months; (2) restricting inducements of any customer, referral source, or party with an agreement with Movement to cease doing business with Movement for 12 months; and, (3) restricting the solicitation of business from any customer, referral source or party with an agreement with Movement for purchase of any products that competes directly with those offered by Movement for 12 months. (Id. at 2). Ward left Movement on December 12, 2013, which directs that these terms expire on December 13, 2013.

Juan Carlos Kelley: Signed October 15, 2013. (Doc. 11-3 at 8). This agreement contains three provisions relevant here: (1) restricting soliciting, inducing, or advising Movement employees to terminate employment with Movement for work with a competitor for 12 months; (2) restricting inducements of any customer, referral source, or party with agreement with Movement to cease doing business with Movement for 12 months; and, (3) contacting any Company Realtor Source to direct business to the new employer for a period of 3 months. (Id. at 5). Kelley left Movement on December 8, 2013. The first two provisions are set to expire on December 8, 2013, while the third provision expires on March 8, 2013.

Jason Stegner: Signed August 6, 2012. (Doc. 11-4 at 3). This agreement contains two relevant provisions: (1) restricting soliciting, inducing, inducing or advising Movement employees to terminate employment with Movement for work with a competitor for 12 months; and, (2) restricting the solicitation of business from any customer, referral source or party with an agreement with Movement for purchase of any products that compete directly with those offered by Movement for 12 months. (Id. at 2). Stegner left Movement on June 7, 2013 and the provisions are set to expire on June 7, 2013. Additionally, Defendant has established and Plaintiff has conceded that Defendant Stegner is employed by New Penn in a purely operational capacity with work duties that do not involve communications with referral sources or customers.

B. Elements

A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary and drastic remedy" never awarded as a matter of right. Munaf v. Geren , 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008) (citations omitted). In each case, courts "must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding such request." Amoco Production Co. v. Gambell , 480 U.S. 531, 542 (2008). An injunction is a matter of equitable discretion; it does not follow from success on the merits as a matter of course. Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo , 456 U.S. 305, 313 (1982) ("[A] federal judge sitting as chancellor is not mechanically obligated to grant an injunction for every violation of law."). A preliminary injunction is to be granted only if no adequate remedy at law exists, and the moving party clearly establishes the requisite entitlement. See Federal Leasing, Inc. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's , 650 F.2d 495, 499 (1981).

A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish four elements, including that: (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in its favor; and, (4) an injunction is in the public ...


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