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Bedbug-Sniffing Dog Prompts TRO

Deborah Elkins//March 28, 2012

Bedbug-Sniffing Dog Prompts TRO

Deborah Elkins//March 28, 2012

Plaintiff pest control company wins a temporary restraining order against a former employee who is using a bedbug-sniffing dog plaintiff claims to own to allegedly operate hi own business featuring canine bedbug-detection services, as an Alexandria U.S. District Court says defendants’ “dogged attempt to demonstrate ownership” of “Dixie” is “wholly unconvincing.”

The noncompete provision at issue here precludes defendant from engaging in the pest control business in any state in which he worked and was assigned during the two-year period preceding his termination. Those states include Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. While this geographic scope strikes the court as relatively broad, the court possesses the authority under the controlling New Jersey law to limit its application. At this time, plaintiff merely seeks to enjoin defendant from engaging in canine bedbug detection business in any counties (including D.C.) in which he performed work on behalf of plaintiff during the two years preceding his termination. The court finds such a restriction reasonable. Defendant asserts that he has owned and operated his own kennel since 1983 and provides training for obedience, search and rescue, agility and show dogs. The noncompete provision in defendant’s employment agreement does not preclude him from engaging in these activities.

While plaintiff does not allege defendant has solicited or engaged in business with its customers, it appears likely that defendant is breaching the noncompete provision of his employment agreement. The court finds it likely that plaintiff’s breach of contract claim will succeed on the merits.

As of January 2012, plaintiff owned four scent dogs. Thus, Dixie’s absence deprives plaintiff of a substantial chunk of its business. The court finds this situation presents the type of exigency that warrants mandatory injunctive relief. Considering the legitimate interests at stake, the balance of equities and the public interest both warrant an injunction here.

The court grants plaintiff’s motion for a TRO and denies defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Western Industries-North LLP v. Lessard (Cacheris) No. 1:12cv177, March 13, 2012; USDC at Alexandria, Va. VLW 012-3-114, 28 pp.

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