WICHITA, Kan. (Aug. 17, 2011)—Goodyear failed to prove that a former employee's move to Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. would cause irreparable harm to the company, a Kansas federal district judge ruled in denying Goodyear's motion for a preliminary injunction.
“(Goodyear's) sole argument is that the plaintiff possesses confidential information which will harm Goodyear in the hands of its competitor,” Judge Kenneth G. Gale wrote. “However, the evidence proves no more than the plaintiff's general knowledge and management experience.”
Gale issued the order July 13 denying Goodyear's motion in its case against David Young and Conti, but the actual text was not available from the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas until July 28.
According to court documents, Young joined Goodyear at its Topeka, Kan., plant in 2002. At the time, he signed a non-disclosure agreement which among other things forbade Young from taking a job with any other tire maker for two years after leaving Goodyear.
In the nine years he worked in Topeka, Young worked as an area manager in various departments, including a stint relating to the safety aspects of a $20 million upgrade of several tire-building machines.
In May 2011, Young requested a waiver from the non-disclosure agreement so he could accept a position at the Conti plant in Mt. Vernon, Ill. Goodyear declined the waiver. The following month, Young joined Conti anyway and filed an action with the Kansas court requesting a declaratory judgment that the non-disclosure agreement with Goodyear would not prevent his employment by Conti.
Goodyear responded by filing a motion with the Cleveland federal district court, seeking a court order banning Conti from hiring Young before May 21, 2013 and ordering Conti to pay damages, attorneys' fees and court costs. Goodyear's case was later transferred to the Kansas court.
In his ruling, Gale noted that Young's last position at Topeka was supervising hourly workers on the tire machines.
“Plaintiff was not involved in the design of the machines or in the design of the workplace system in his section,” he wrote. “He was not involved in decisions about manning in his area. Plaintiff was not involved in devising process changes to comply with 'lean' principles, although he did implement efficiency changes devised by others.”
Young does know much about the operations at the Topeka plant, but the evidence indicates that his knowledge is specific to the Topeka plant and would not benefit Conti, according to Gale.
“Aside from 'wholly conclusory statements' by Goodyear, there is no evidence that plaintiff possesses important confidential information concerning operations sufficient to support enforcement of the contract,” he wrote.
Goodyear declined comment on the ruling. An attorney for Conti could not be reached for comment.