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Biggers v. Accelecare Wound Centers, Inc.

United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 16, 2015

KATHY BIGGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
ACCELECARE WOUND CENTERS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

KEVIN H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff’s complaint before this Court alleges unlawful inducement of breach of contract under Tennessee common law and Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-50-109 and tortious interference with a business relationship under Tennessee common law. Plaintiff also seeks a declaratory judgment regarding whether a non-competition agreement purportedly executed in favor of Defendant Accelecare Wound Centers, Inc. (“Accelecare”) on which Plaintiff’s signature appears is valid and enforceable. (Docket No. 1-1) Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 72) regarding all matters in the complaint. Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Strike Defendant’s Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 77) because it violates the Court’s May 1, 2013 Case Management Order. (Docket No. 52) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s motion will be denied, and Defendant’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant Accelecare is a comprehensive wound care and disease management company that provides full service wound management solutions to hospitals and related health care organizations across the United States. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 1). Plaintiff Kathy Biggers was employed by Defendant in the position of Vice President of Business Development in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 25, 2008 to April 24, 2009. (Docket No. 82 ¶¶2, 13). While working for Defendant, Plaintiff was responsible for procuring advanced wound care center contracts with hospitals in various states. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 3). Although Plaintiff was employed with Defendant for over a year, she did not procure any contracts and was terminated for failure to develop new business. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 13).

Defendant contends that at the time of her hire, Plaintiff was presented with a noncompetition agreement (“Agreement”) which she signed. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 5). Although Plaintiff does not remember signing the Agreement, she admits that her signature appears on the document. (Docket No. 1-1 ¶ 21). The Agreement is governed by the law of the state of Washington, and prohibits Plaintiff from working with a competitor of Defendant in any geographic market in which Defendant operates for a period of two years after the end of her employment. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 6, 8). Plaintiff also executed a separate confidentiality agreement which prohibits her from soliciting Defendant’s customers and using Defendant’s confidential and proprietary information. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 9).

After Plaintiff was terminated by Defendant, she gained employment at National Healing Corporation, a competitor of Defendant, as Vice President of Business Development. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 14). Plaintiff’s employment status at National Healing was at-will. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 15). Plaintiff signed a confidentiality and non-competition agreement with National Healing that required Plaintiff to make certain representations, including an affirmation that she was not a party to any other agreement which would prevent her from working at National Healing. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 16). Plaintiff did not disclose her non-competition agreement with Defendant to National Healing. Id.

Upon discovering that Plaintiff was employed by National Healing in a business development role, Defendant, through counsel, sent a December 22, 2009 letter to Plaintiff informing her that she was in violation of the Agreement and requesting that she terminate her employment with National Healing. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 18). Defendant also sent a letter to National Healing on the same day, informing it that Plaintiff’s employment violated her noncompetition agreement with Defendant, and asking National Healing to confirm that it had not used any of Defendant’s confidential or proprietary information. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 19). The letter also stated:

[Defendant] hope[s] to avoid legal action, but [Defendant] needs to ensure that all parties respect the contractual arrangement that [Plaintiff] accepted when she became [Defendant’s] employee. [Defendant] look[s] forward to [National Healing’s] confirmation that [Plaintiff] is no longer a National Healing employee.

(Docket No. 76-1). Despite the letter, Plaintiff continued her employment with National Healing. (Docket No. 82 ¶ 20). As a result, on January 14, 2009, Defendant contacted National Healing by telephone and informed it that Defendant intended to take legal action if Plaintiff persisted in violating the Agreement. Id.

On January 15, 2010, National Healing terminated Plaintiff’s employment. According to Faye Traeger, National Healing’s Vice President of Human Resources during the relevant time period, Plaintiff was terminated “for falsification of company documents” and “misrepresenting her obligations to [Defendant] by signing National Healing’s confidentiality and non-competition agreement.” (Docket No. 75 ¶¶ 8, 9). However, according to Bob Bauman, National Healing’s Chief Development Officer during the relevant time period, Plaintiff was terminated “based on [Defendant’s] threats of legal action against National Healing.” (Docket No. 82-1 ¶ 14).

II. MOTION TO STRIKE

Plaintiff moves this Court to strike Defendant’s Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment because it fails to comply with the Court’s case management order requiring the parties’ dispositive motion briefs to not exceed twenty pages. Defendant’s memorandum consists of twenty-three pages. Defendant subsequently filed a Motion for Leave to Exceed Page Limitation (Docket No. 78) which the court granted (Docket No. 81). Because the Court granted Defendant’s motion for leave to exceed the page limit, Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike will be denied.

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A party may obtain summary judgment if the evidence establishes there are no genuine issues of material fact for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Covington v. Knox County School Sys., 205 F.3d 912, 914 (6th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all justifiable inferences in his or her favor. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, (1986). However, the nonmoving party must rely on more than “[c]onclusory assertions, supported only by Plaintiff's own opinions.” Aren ...


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