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HARRY BLACKWOOD v. RICHARD CAPUTO (08/21/81)

filed: August 21, 1981.

HARRY BLACKWOOD, INC., APPELLANT,
v.
RICHARD CAPUTO, T/A/D/B/A CAPUTO'S



No. 460 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from the Final Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, No. 177 of 1979, Civil Action-Equity.

COUNSEL

John J. Petrush, Beaver Falls, for appellant.

John A. Caputo, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Brosky, DiSalle and Shertz, JJ.

Author: Disalle

[ 290 Pa. Super. Page 141]

Appellant, Harry Blackwood, Inc., is an insurance agency and the former employer of appellee, Richard Caputo, who is presently doing business as an independent insurance agent. Appellant brought this action in equity in the court below seeking enforcement of its employment contract with appellee, specifically the covenant not to compete. Appellant filed this appeal from the Order of the court below dismissing its exceptions to the adjudication, and affirming the decree nisi entered by the chancellor. The appeal raises three issues, all of which we find to be without merit.

First, appellant alleges error in the lower court's interpretation of the covenant not to compete. The covenant reads as follows:

[ 290 Pa. Super. Page 142]

Caputo agrees that, in case his employment is terminated for any cause, whether voluntary or otherwise, he will not, thereafter, for a period of five (5) years after leaving the employment, for himself or in behalf of any other person, partnership or corporation, directly or indirectly, solicit, divert or take away or attempt to solicit, divert or take away, any of the clients, business or patronage of such clients as were or had been served by the Agent as of the date of termination of his employment hereunder. (emphasis added)

Appellant contends that the covenant precludes appellee from any writing of insurance for any of appellant's former customers. The lower court interpreted the covenant as prohibiting appellant

     from taking any affirmative action either directly or indirectly toward the securing of business from any person or firm who was a customer of the plaintiff at the time the defendant left the plaintiff's employment . . . the covenant [does not] prohibit . . . the defendant from selling insurance to customer's of the plaintiff as long as he does not solicit or otherwise attempt to interfere with the relationship between his former employer and the customer.

It has been said that

     appellate review of equity matters is limited to a determination of whether the chancellor committed an error of law or abused his discretion . . . The scope of review of a final decree in equity is limited and will not be disturbed unless it is ...


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