Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Inc. v. Airgas, Inc.

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

October 2, 2017

GOD'S LITTLE GIFT, INC., doing business as HELIUM & BALLOONS ACROSS AMERICA also known as “HABAA”, and GARY PAGE, Plaintiffs,
v.
AIRGAS, INC. Defendant.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 28), Defendant's Answer to Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 30), Defendant's Request for a Preliminary Hearing (Doc. No. 31), Plaintiffs' Response to the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 32), Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Request for a Preliminary Hearing (Doc. No. 35), and Defendant's Reply (Doc. No. 36). Upon review by the Court, for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 28) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is DENIED. Defendant's Request for a Preliminary Hearing is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This actions arises from the business dealings between Plaintiffs, God's Little Gift, Inc., doing business as Helium and Balloons Across America (“HBAA”) and its founder, Gary Page, and Defendant, Airgas, Inc. HABAA, who is in the business of providing helium and balloons to grocery stores and various retail outlets, began its business relationship with Airgas, a helium supplier, at an unspecified date between 1982 and 1983. (Doc. No. 27, p. 6-8). The parties continued this relationship until 2015. Id. During the course of their relationship Airgas acted as HABAA's principle supplier of helium. Id. at 10.

         Plaintiffs allege that as HABAA grew from humble beginnings to national success, Airgas began a “systematic plan” to “take HABAA's business for itself.” Id. at 9. Between 2009 and 2015 Airgas made several unsuccessful attempts to purchase HABAA. Id. at 31. Plaintiffs allege, however, that these purchase attempts were a sham, and Airgas merely used the negotiations to obtain HABAA's confidential information. Id. Airgas then, allegedly, used this confidential information to siphon off HABAA's business. Id. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege Airgas engaged in other deceptive conduct, such as fabricating a “helium shortage” narrative in order to justify exponentially increasing the rate it charged HABAA for helium, as part of its systemic plan to put HABAA out of business. Id. at 18.

         Plaintiffs filed this present action against Defendant in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on Nov. 30, 2016. (Doc. No. 1). It was subsequently removed to this Court on January 4, 2017. Id. Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint on May 11, 2017, arguing Defendant be found liable to Plaintiffs under the following claims of relief: (1) Misappropriation of Trade Secrets under N.C. G.S. § 66-152; (2) Misappropriation of Trade Secrets under 18 U.S.C. § 1836; (3) violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“UDTPA”); (4) Tortious Interference with Contract; and (5) Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage. (Doc. No. 27). On May 25, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 28).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain more than mere legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint must plead facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and to demonstrate that the claim is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim is facially plausible when the factual content of the complaint allows the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct.” Id. at 556.

         In Iqbal, the Supreme Court articulated a two-step process for determining whether a complaint meets this plausibility standard. First, the court identifies allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (allegation that government officials adopted challenged policy “because of” its adverse effects on protected group was conclusory and not assumed to be true). Although the pleading requirements stated in “Rule 8 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] mark[ ] a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79.

         Second, to the extent there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their truth and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint contains sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief ‘will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'” Id. “Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief, '” and therefore it should be dismissed. Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In other words, if after taking the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true, a lawful alternative explanation appears a “more likely” cause of the complained of behavior, the claim for relief is not plausible. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Misappropriation of Trade Secrets: 18 U.S.C. § 1836 & N.C. G.S. § 66-152

         Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' state and federal claims for misappropriation of trade secrets should fail for four reasons; none of which this Court finds persuasive.

         First, Defendant argues that the federal claim fails because the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) applies only to misappropriation occurring on or after its date of enactment, May 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 29, p. 15). However, while this may be the case under an “acquisition” theory of liability, under a “disclosure” theory of liability a DTSA claim is actionable when the disclosure or use continued to occur after the effective date. Sleekez, LLC v. Horton, 2017 WL 1906957 at *5 (D. Mont. Apr. 21, 2017). Here, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's misappropriation continued “as part of an ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.