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Labor & Employment – Wage & Hour Act – Tort/Negligence – Interference with Contract – Covenant Not to Compete

Moonracer, Inc. v. Collard (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-02-0285, 14 pp.) (Terrence Boyle, J.) 5:13-cv-00455; E.D.N.C.

Holding: When defendant Collard was employed by plaintiff, he signed notices that, if his employment were terminated, he would forfeit unused vacation and commissions that were not yet payable as of his termination date. Although Collard submitted an affidavit saying he does not recall having received such notices, he may not create a genuine issue of material fact by contradicting his own signatures on the notices.

The court grants summary judgment for Moonracer, Inc. d/b/a Synaptis (Synaptis) on Collard’s counterclaims and on IT Convergence’s claims.

Collard claims tortious interference with contract, but he has not come forward with any evidence that Synaptis acted with malice. Though the court noted in its order denying Synaptis’ motion for preliminary injunction that the non-competition agreement between Synaptis and Collard was not specifically tailored to protect Synaptis’ legitimate business interests, Synaptis’ belief that its non-competition agreement was valid and its actions taken to enforce that agreement do not demonstrate that Synaptis acted with the requisite malice for an intentional interference with contract claim.

Similarly, Collard has not proffered evidence that Synaptis’ actions in attempting to enforce its non-competition agreement rose to the level of unfair or deceptive conduct. A reasonable, non-negligent interpretation of a contract term, even if it proves to be incorrect, is insufficient to support an unfair trade practices claim.

Collard’s new employer, IT Convergence, filed suit in California against Synaptis, alleging intentional interference with contract and unfair trade practices. Synaptis removed that action to federal court, and the case was transferred to this court.

Application of California choice of law principles leads the court to apply California law to the interference with contract claim and North Carolina law to the unfair trade practices claim.

Although IT Convergence’s president provided a conclusory declaration that IT Convergence has suffered damages, IT Convergence has come forward with no specific evidence of damages. Therefore, IT Convergence has failed to make out a prima facie case of intentional interference with contract.

Since IT Convergence has proffered no evidence that Synaptis’ actions were immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, or deceptive, Synaptis is entitled to summary judgment on IT Convergence’s unfair trade practices claim.

Motion granted.

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