Lunt v. Campbell, 23 Mass. L. Rep. 145, 2007 Mass. Super. LEXIS 484 (Mass. Super. Ct. Sept. 24, 2007) (excerpts).
This action arises from the termination of employment relationships, and the establishment of a competing business, in the field of hairdressing. The plaintiff, former employer of the three defendants, seeks a preliminary injunction to enforce non-competition agreements [pending a final decision after trial].
[The plaintiff, Debora] Lunt asked each of [her former employees] to sign an employment agreement…The form provided that the employee, for a period of two years from termination of her employment, would not “sell, offer, or offer for sale, solicit any customers or customer lists,” and would not “engage in any way, directly or indirectly, in any business competitive with the Employer’s business, nor solicit…or in any other manner work for or assist any competitive business in Essex County.”
[Two of the defendants] opened a hair salon in Peabody, some ten miles from the site of Lunt’s salon…under the name of Gichelle’s Hair Studio…[,They,] share the costs of operating Gichelle’s, but each serves her own clients, keeps her own schedule, and retains her separate receipts.
A party seeking a preliminary injunction must show that (1) success is likely [after trial]; (2) irreparable harm will result from denial of the injunction; and (3) the risk of irreparable harm to the moving party outweighs any similar risk of harm to the opposing party…
“A covenant not to compete is enforceable only if it is necessary to protect a legitimate business interest, reasonably limited in time and space, and consonant with the public interest. Covenants not to compete are valid if they are reasonable in light of the facts in each case.”
Here, the plaintiff asserts that the provisions in the agreements protect her legitimate interests in customer goodwill and in confidential customer information. The facts presented at this preliminary stage [,however,] raise considerable question as to who, as between Lunt and her employees, actually developed and enjoys the goodwill of the individual clients whom [the defendants] serviced at Lunt’s salon. Hairdressers are not fungible; each employs individual skills and techniques that may, or may not, meet the needs and preferences of an individual client. [A]t least on the present record, it is not apparent that the goodwill of the clients these defendants have serviced necessarily belongs to Lunt, rather than to the defendants. [citations omitted].
As to trade secrets, the defendants deny having taken any records from Lunt, and Lunt’s showing in that regard rests on circumstances that may warrant suspicion, but do not amount to substantial proof.
For the reasons stated, the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED.