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AMX International, Inc. v. Battelle Energy Alliance

October 7, 2010

AMX INTERNATIONAL, INC., AN IDAHO CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BATTELLE ENERGY ALLIANCE, LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendant Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 29.) Oral argument was held on August 25, 2010, and the motion is at issue. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant Battelle's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff AMX International, Inc. operates a business and information technology consulting company. It contracts with private companies and government entities to provide software and other computer consulting, support, and training services. The services AMX offers include the provision of technology support staff. AMX hires IT professionals, and then subcontracts their services to its clients.

When hired, all AMX employees sign non-competition agreements that prohibit them from "[d]irectly or indirectly working as or for an Active Client" for a period of 12 months following employment with AMX. See, e.g., William R. Newland Non-Competition Agreement, Dkt. 29-18. An Active Client is: "a person, business or entity that AMX has sent an invoice to or concerningwithin the prior 24 months and who is listed in the invoice as the 'client' or under the 'Bill to.'"Id.

In March 2006, AMX began providing its employees' IT services to Battelle. Typically, AMX service contracts contain an Employment Recruitment provision prohibiting the client from soliciting or hiring AMX employees. But Battelle has a policy against the inclusion of such clauses in its services contracts, and AMX never requested that its standard no-hire provision be included in any of its contracts with Battelle. Therefore, no contract barred Battelle from hiring former AMX employees. AMX admitted this, according to Battelle, by noting in an internal company email, "there is nothing that restricts [Battelle] from hiring AMX employees." May 23, 2007 Email from Brent Stacey to Jay Price at PLA008, Dkt. 29-9. Battelle, however, did know that each AMX employee subcontracted to Battelle had a non-competition agreement with AMX, which prohibited the employee from working directly for Battelle.

It is undisputed that former AMX employees applied for jobs working directly for Battelle and were hired. In 2008, AMX filed a suit against former employee Trevor Ball to enforce Ball's covenant not to compete. The state court denied AMX's request for preliminary injunctive relief, and AMX withdrew its complaint.

AMX now alleges that Battelle tortiously interfered with its employee non-competition agreements by "hir[ing] away AMX employees assigned to work at the BEA worksite." Am. Compl. ¶ 29, Dkt. 20. AMX complains that Battelle's conduct -- recruiting and inducing AMX employees to breach their non-competition agreements -- "has deprived AMX of no less than $2 million in fees to date." Id. ¶ 24. Battelle seeks summary judgment on AMX's claim.

LEGAL STANDARD

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

However, the Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pac. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1988)). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific ...


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