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BARB-LEE MOBILE FRAME COMPANY v. HOOT (01/05/65)

decided: January 5, 1965.

BARB-LEE MOBILE FRAME COMPANY
v.
HOOT, APPELLANT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1963, No. 535, in case of Barb-Lee Mobile Frame Co., Inc. v. Charles T. Hoot.

COUNSEL

Edward N. Gottlieb, for appellant.

Jerome J. Verlin, with him David Cohen, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.

Author: Musmanno

[ 416 Pa. Page 223]

On September 1, 1959, Charles T. Hoot and Meyer Cohen, president of the Barb-Lee Mobile Frame Co., entered into a contract whereby Hoot agreed to work for Barb-Lee on a percentage basis, with the proviso that if he discontinued his employment he would not, for five years, compete with Barb-Lee in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Barb-Lee is engaged in the business of straightening and realigning damaged automobile frames by means of a portable machine which is taken to the very site of the disabled car, and, by the application of heat and pressure, realigns the damaged frame to its original dimensions and shape.

On December 21, 1961, Hoot voluntarily ceased his employment with Barb-Lee and at once proceeded to do the very thing he had said he would not do, namely, compete with his previous employer. He solicited Barb-Lee's customers, he took business which would ordinarily go to Barb-Lee, and even sought to cloak his activities with the name of his erstwhile employer.

Barb-Lee sought and obtained in the Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, an injunction restraining Hoot from violating his contract.*fn1 He now appeals to this Court seeking reversal.

In its decree the lower court narrowed the area in which the covenant was operable. It held that Barb-Lee could restrict Hoot from operating in Pennsylvania but not in Delaware and New Jersey. The appellant Hoot argues that the court had no right to modify

[ 416 Pa. Page 224]

    the contract and that since the agreement specifically covered the area of the three States, it had to stand or fall in all those three States.

The preamble of the contract stated: "Whereas, Company has an exclusive franchise for the operation of said frame machine within the areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware . . ."

The fact that there was no evidence that Barb-Lee enjoyed such an extensive franchise did not deprive it of protection in the area the Court believed to be reasonable and sustainable. The man who wildly claims that he owns all the cherry trees in the country cannot be denied protection of the orchard in his back yard. A restrictive covenant, when it comes under the scrutiny of a court of equity, will be ...


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