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11/27/89 Carbonic Fire v. Jeffrey Heath

November 27, 1989

CARBONIC FIRE EXTINGUISHERS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

JEFFREY HEATH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

547 N.E.2d 675, 190 Ill. App. 3d 948, 138 Ill. Dec. 508 1989.IL.1829

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Melvin E. Dunn, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE REINHARD delivered the opinion of the court. UNVERZAGT, P.J., and McLAREN, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE REINHARD

Plaintiff, Carbonic Fire Extinguishers, Inc., filed a five-count complaint in the circuit court of Kane County seeking, inter alia, a preliminary injunction to prevent defendant, Jeffrey Heath, from contacting any of plaintiff's customers and from disclosing any information contained in plaintiff's scheduling book and customer list. Following the issuance of a temporary restraining order, an evidentiary hearing was held, after which the circuit court issued a preliminary injunction without bond restraining defendant from contacting any customers of plaintiff and from disclosing any information contained in plaintiff's scheduling book and customer list.

Defendant brings this interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1) (107 Ill. 2d R. 307(a)(1)) from the order granting the preliminary injunction. He essentially contends that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. In particular, defendant argues that the customer list and pricing information in the scheduling book do not constitute trade secrets.

The facts, as established at the preliminary injunction hearing held on May 22, 1989, are as follows. Plaintiff is an Illinois corporation, solely owned by Daniel Heath, defendant's brother. Plaintiff is engaged in the business of cleaning restaurant hoods and their related components and in selling and servicing of fire extinguishers. The business territory is the Chicago metropolitan area and Rockford. Plaintiff has approximately 590 customers. Plaintiff estimates that there are over 10,000 restaurants in the Chicagoland area. Defendant believes there are over 100,000 restaurants in this area.

Defendant had been employed by plaintiff intermittently for the past 10 years. He had been a manager of a cleaning truck for the last three years prior to leaving on March 16, 1989. Although it is not entirely clear from the hearing, defendant apparently drove the truck and supervised the cleaning of various restaurant hoods. There was no written employment contract between plaintiff and defendant, nor was there a covenant not to compete.

During the course of his employment, defendant utilized a scheduling book, also referred to below as a customer list, which contained the names of customers, their addresses, their telephone numbers, the customer contact person, the date of the last servicing of a particular customer, and the price to be charged a particular customer. Generally, customers were serviced on a regular basis, usually every three to six months. When defendant terminated employment with plaintiff, he failed to return the 1988 scheduling book, and, according to defendant, he threw the scheduling book in the trash after he left. He did turn in his 1989 scheduling book. Defendant testified that he knew most of the customers from memory.

Daniel Heath testified that defendant had, subsequent to his termination with plaintiff, contacted about 40 of plaintiff's customers and performed hood-cleaning services for approximately 13 of plaintiff's customers. Defendant also contacted approximately 25 businesses that were not plaintiff's customers.

According to Daniel Heath, the customer list and pricing information, which is on a computer and also contained in the scheduling book, was not given to anyone who was not a manager and that it was always kept under lock and key. It was treated as confidential. Customers were developed through sales calls. Whenever a truck manager secured a new customer, he received 20% of the sales price of the job. Rick Hogrewe, general manager for plaintiff, testified that there was no written policy regarding the scheduling book and customer information although it was made known to the employees that the customer information could not be divulged. Defendant, on the other hand, stated that he took the book home with him and that his wife and other employees had access to it.

While the customer information is not made available to the general public, Hogrewe and Daniel Heath conceded that the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of various customers would generally be available in the telephone book. Hogrewe further admitted that the appropriate customer contact could usually be ascertained by contacting a particular business and inquiring in that regard.

Defendant admitted establishing his own business called Quality Hood Cleaning Company and soliciting cleaning work from various customers of plaintiff that he had developed social relationships with while employed with plaintiff. He was also solicited by several of plaintiff's customers and has done cleaning for ...


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