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Sabre Industries Inc. v. McLaurin

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

August 19, 2019

SABRE INDUSTRIES INC.
v.
JOSEPH MCLAURIN

          MARK L. HORNSBY MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sabre Industries, Inc.'s (“Sabre”) motion for preliminary injunction [Doc. No. 2] against Defendant Joseph McLaurin (“McLaurin”).[1] A hearing was held on the motion on August 15, 2019.

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Sabre alleges that it is a producer of engineered products used for electric transmission and distribution and wireless telecommunications, offering a full range of engineered towers, poles, structures, and related services. McLaurin began his employment with Sabre on August 17, 2009, as a Materials Manager. On February 1, 2013, McLaurin became the Production Support Manager. In this position, he was responsible for working with developing M2M, supporting production, and helping with transportation.

         On June 1, 2014, McLaurin became the Director of Support Production. In this position, he was responsible for converting incoming purchase orders into casting schedules and driving a schedule of shelters to production. He was in charge of the Production Support Group (PSG) and was in charge of transportation.

         On or about June 16, 2014, McLaurin entered into a Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicitation, and Fair Competition Agreement with Sabre (“the Agreement”). Sabre presented evidence the consideration for McLaurin entering into the Agreement included, among other things, continued employment and a $25, 000 bonus. According to Sabre, the Agreement was entered into for the express purpose of, among other things, maintaining certain confidential business information of Sabre and to preserve Sabre's relationships with persons with whom it does business.

         On August 16, 2014, McLaurin became the Director of Production Reporting and Systems. In this position he ran the PSG and worked with reporting production from scheduling to follow up when products were shipped.

         On May 25, 2018, McLaurin moved into the position of Manager of Production Support.

         On or about August 15, 2018, McLaurin became the Temporary Production Manager. In this position, he had a team of four supervisors to drive the production schedule. He was in charge of his team's safety, quality, and production. His focus was on improving quoted work and building product to quote. He worked with the M2M during the first part of his move to Temporary Production Manager.

         On May 8, 2019, McLaurin's employment with Sabre was terminated. Sabre contends he was terminated for cause.

         Upon his termination, McLaurin went to work for Module X Solutions, L.L.C., (“MXS”), one of Sabre's competitors. Sabre contends that McLaurin's acceptance of employment with MXS is contrary to the Agreement. Sabre further contends that McLaurin has used and disclosed Sabre's Confidential Information, including, but not limited to, Sabre's confidential and proprietary information pertaining to its clients, their needs, and Sabre's rates and fee structure for such clients, and is using such information in an effort to compete unfairly with Sabre for his own benefit and that of his new employer, MXS, all in violation of the Agreement.

         Sabre additionally contends that McLaurin has actively solicited Sabre employees to accept employment with MXS and is using confidential Sabre employee lists containing skill sets, pay levels, and contact information to solicit Sabre employees, again all in violation of the Agreement.

         Sabre seeks damages for breach of contract and requests an injunction restraining McLaurin from continuing to violate the Agreement.

         McLaurin, on the other hand, contends that Sabre's motion for injunctive relief should be denied because (1) the non-competition provision of the Agreement is an unlawful restraint on business or trade prohibited by La. R.S. 23:921 and thus unenforceable; (2) the non-solicitation provision of the Agreement restrains the rights not only of McLaurin, but other Sabre employees and is also a violation of La. R.S. 23:921; and, (3) Sabre has failed to allege anything more than a speculative violation of the confidentiality provision of the Agreement and must amend its complaint before any request for affirmative or injunctive relief can be considered.

         On July 26, 2019, the Court conducted a telephone conference with counsel for the parties. During that conference, the Court set a hearing on Sabre's request for a preliminary injunction for August 15, 2019.

         On August 15, 2019, a hearing was conducted on Sabre's request for a preliminary injunction. Sabre moves this Court for a preliminary injunction ordering McLaurin to return of all of Sabre's Proprietary Information in his possession, ordering McLaurin to cease soliciting Sabre employees for employment with MXS, and prohibiting and enjoining McLaurin from continuing his employment with MXS.

         To support the motion, Sabre presented testimony from Thomas Jagielski, its Vice-President and General Manager for Sabre Industries Bossier City; Shannon Lee, its Supervisor of Energy Storage Sabre Industries Bossier City; and Les Walton, Electrical Lead, Energy Storage, Sabre Industries Bossier City. Sabre also called McLaurin on cross.

         McLaurin presented testimony from Stephen L. Schoonover, founder of both Sabre and MXS; Patricia Netherton, Director of Human Resources and Hiring at MXS; and from himself.

         The Court is now prepared to rule on the motion for preliminary injunction.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Motion for Preliminary Injunction

         There are four traditional criteria a party moving for a preliminary injunction must satisfy: “(1) a substantial likelihood that plaintiff will prevail on the merits, (2) a substantial threat that plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) that the threatened injury to plaintiff outweighs the threatened harm the injunction may do to defendant, and (4) that granting the preliminary injunction will not disserve the public interest.” Canal Auth. Of State of Fla. v. Callaway, 2d 567');">489 F.2d 567, 572 (5th Cir. 1974); see also Glossip v. Gross, 2726');">135 S.Ct. 2726, 2736 (2015) (“‘A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.'”) (quoting Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)), reh'g denied, 20');">136 S.Ct. 20 (2015)). Because a preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy, ” it “should only be granted if the movant has “clearly carried the burden of ...


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