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American Audio Visual Co. v. Rouillard

March 9, 2010

AMERICAN AUDIO VISUAL CO. D/B/A ABSOLUTE PRODUCTION SERVICES PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAULA A. ROUILLARD AND MARKETING GROUP WEST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge

JUDGE DAVID H. COAR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, American Audio Visual Co. d/b/a Absolute Production Services, Co. ("Plaintiff" or "APS") brings this action against Paula A. Rouillard ("Defendant" or "Rouillard"), alleging Illinois state law claims of tortious interference with business expectancy (Count I), breach of contract (Count II), and breach of fiduciary duty (Count III). Presently before the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on all three counts, and (2) Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on Defendant's counterclaim. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for summary on Counts I, II, and III is GRANTED as to liability, and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on Defendant's counterclaim is also GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff APS is an Illinois corporation in the business of providing coordination and audio visual production services for major corporate events. Defendant Rouillard, whose primary residence is in Phoenix, Arizona, was a full-time employee of APS from April 2005 until December 22, 2006, when Rouillard left APS and began working for Marketing Group West.

At the beginning of her employment with APS, Rouillard signed a "Work-Made-For-Hire and Proprietary Information Agreement," which stated in relevant part:

[T]he employee agrees that for a one-year period following employment termination (whether voluntary or involuntary and with or without cause,) he/she shall not solicit, divert or initiate any contact with (or attempt to solicit, divert or initiate any contact with) any consumer, client, independent contractor or employee of APS for any commercial or business reason whatsoever. (Pl. Br., Dkt. 51-2, Ex. B.)

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. ("Ventana") was a new customer of APS secured by Rouillard. In 2005, Ventana hired APS to provide audio visual services for its 2006 annual corporate meeting, held on January 16-18, 2006. APS paid Rouillard a commission for the sale of services to Ventana. While still working for APS, Rouillard began planning for Ventana's next annual corporate meeting scheduled for January 2007. Rouillard's planning began as early as August 2006 and continued through the end of her employment with APS in December 2006.

On December 21, 2006, Rouillard sent Jill Imwalle of Ventana e-mails from two separate accounts. One e-mail, sent from Rouillard's account at APS, discussed planning for the January conference. The other e-mail, which Rouillard sent from her new account at Marketing Group West, stated, "Here is my new e-mail. I am now working as an independent under Marketing Group West and Premier Event. This ensures that we will be able to meet or actually beat your budget needs." (Pl. Br., Dkt. 51-2., Ex. E.) The next day, December 22, 2006, Rouillard sent Ventana, through Jill Imwalle, an e-mail from her Marketing West Group Account instructing Ventana to ignore calls from APS. Ventana hired Rouillard's new employer, Marketing Group West, for its 2007 annual meeting.

APS initiated this action on August 31, 2007 and filed its first amended complaint, which contains five counts, on March 21, 2008. APS received a judgment against Defendant Marketing Group West on its claims for tortious interference with contract (Count IV) and tortious interference with business expectancy (Count IV). The first three counts, brought against Rouillard, include tortious interference with business expectancy (Count I), breach of contract (Count II), and breach of fiduciary duty (Count III). Rouillard filed a counterclaim against APS seeking her unpaid salary, unpaid commission, and compensation for earned but unused vacation days. Rouillard neither answered APS's first amended complaint nor responded to APS's motions for summary judgment. Through these motions, which are currently before the Court, APS moves for summary judgment on the three counts brought against Rouillard and Rouillard's counterclaim.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts (a "scintilla of evidence" is insufficient) demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Schuster v. Lucent Tech., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003). At summary judgment, the "court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a ...


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