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08/26/87 Szabo Food Service, Inc., v. the County of Cook Et Al.

August 26, 1987

SZABO FOOD SERVICE, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE COUNTY OF COOK ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION

513 N.E.2d 875, 160 Ill. App. 3d 845, 112 Ill. Dec. 266 1987.IL.1245

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard L. Curry, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA, P.J., and RIZZI, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WHITE

Plaintiff Szabo Food Service, Inc., sued for an injunction to prevent defendant Canteen Corporation from employing four of Szabo's former managers in the food operations of Cook County jail. Szabo requested a temporary restraining order; the trial court denied the request, and Szabo appealed. Szabo then moved for a preliminary injunction, which the trial court also denied, and again Szabo appealed. The appeals were consolidated for oral argument.

On September 1, 1982, Szabo entered into a contract with defendant Cook County (the county) in which Szabo agreed to provide food service to the Cook County Department of Corrections at the Cook County jail (the jail). In the contract, the county agreed that,

"without specific permission of SZABO, no managerial employee of SZABO will be hired by the COUNTY for the period of this Agreement and six (6) months thereafter, nor will COUNTY permit former managerial employees of SZABO to be employed in COUNTY food service facilities for a period of six (6) months subsequent to the termination of this Agreement."

Szabo alleged in its complaint that in 1986, Walter Zemgulis, John Becht, Ronald Fitzgerald, and Willie Wright, Jr., were all managerial employees of Szabo working at the jail. Zemgulis was the jail's food service director, Becht was the computer coordinator, and Fitzgerald and Wright were assistant food service directors. In 1986 the county awarded a contract for food service at Cook County jail to Canteen, a competing food service company, with service to begin on December 1, 1986, the expiration date for the county's contract with Szabo. Szabo alleged in its complaint that Becht, Fitzgerald and Wright quit their employment with Szabo on November 30, 1986, and Zemgulis quit his employment on December 4, 1986. Canteen hired all four of these managers, and all continue to work at the jail.

Szabo alleged in the complaint:

"In providing food services at the Cook County Jail, Szabo has developed, at substantial expense and investment, specialized procedures, systems, methods and data. These specialized procedures include: computerized, automated and other techniques in food preparation, distribution, and purchasing and menu planning.

Zemgulis, Becht, Fitzgerald and Wright have had access to Szabo's confidential information through their employment with and training by Szabo."

In count I of its complaint, Szabo charges that the county has breached its contract by permitting these persons to work at the jail as employees of Canteen. Szabo alleged that it suffered detriment because Canteen acquired confidential information about Szabo's procedures, and Szabo lost the services of the four managers whom it had trained at substantial expense to itself. In counts II and IV Szabo charged the county and Canteen, respectively, with tortiously inducing the four managers to terminate their employment with Szabo. In count III Szabo charged Canteen with tortiously inducing the county to breach its contract with Szabo.

The trial court denied Szabo's motion for a temporary restraining order on grounds that Szabo did not establish that it had a protectible interest in enforcement of the covenant in its contract with the county because that covenant was contrary to public policy. The court also found that Szabo did not show that it would suffer irreparable injury without the injunction or that it was likely to succeed on the merits. The trial court subsequently denied the motion for a preliminary injunction without an evidentiary ...


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