Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hearing Lab Technology, Inc. v. Hearing Instruments, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2017

HEARING LAB TECHNOLOGY, INC., a Texas Limited Liability Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
HEARING INSTRUMENTS, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Hearing Instruments, Inc. ("Hearing"). The motion seeks to dismiss the complaint filed against it by Plaintiff, Hearing Lab Technology, Inc. ("HLT"), for failure to join indispensable parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7). [ECF No. 7]. The pith of Defendant's argument for dismissal is that the necessary parties, which Plaintiff failed to name, are the contracting employees subject to the restrictive covenants upon which Plaintiff seeks relief. [ECF No. 8]. In the alternative, Defendant asks this Court to decline to exercise its jurisdiction over Plaintiff's sole claim, which seeks a declaratory judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion and dismiss the complaint.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff HLT is a Texas limited liability corporation and its sole member is HLT Holding Company, LLC; a Delaware limited liability company. [ECF No. 1] at ¶ 1. HLT manufacturers hearing aids and provides licensed hearing aid services. Ibid, at ¶ 28. Defendant Hearing is a Pennsylvania corporation that provides hearing aid services and products under the Hearing Instruments and Miracle-Ear® brand. Id. at ¶¶ 2 and 29.

         Josh Strickland ("Strickland") is an HLT employee at its Sam's Club Hearing Center location in Altoona, Pennsylvania where he serves as a District Manager. Id. at ¶ 50. Previously, Defendant employed Strickland at its Hearing Instruments in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, approximately seventy-five miles from Altoona, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 40. Strickland also worked for Defendant at its Monroeville, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania locations, approximately eighty-six to ninety-seven miles from Altoona. Id. On August 2, 2010, Strickland signed an Employment Agreement ("Strickland Agreement") with Defendant agreeing that upon termination of his employment and two years thereafter, he would not

directly or indirectly recruit or hire any employee of the Company, or otherwise induce such employee to leave the employment of the Company, to become an employee of or otherwise be associated with me or any company or business with which I am or may become associated, nor will I directly or indirectly solicit present or former clients or customers of the Company.

Id. at ¶ 44 (quoting Exhibit D, ¶ 15). On November 15, 2013, Strickland terminated his employment with Defendant and began employment with Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 41 and 49.

         Williams M. Evans ("Evans") is an HLT employee at its Sam's Club Hearing Center location in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 27. Previously, Defendant employed Evans at its Hearing Instruments location in Bedford, Pennsylvania, approximately forty miles from Plaintiff's Sam's Club location. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. On May 16, 2011, Evans signed an Employment Agreement ("Evans Agreement") with Defendant agreeing that upon termination of his employment and two years thereafter, he would not own, maintain, engage in, be employed by, advise, assist, invest in, make loans to, or have any interest whatsoever in any business which is the same as or substantially similar to the Company's business, or that of any Company affiliate or parent, and which is located within the non-exclusive area served by Employee or within a radius of 20 miles thereof.

Id. at ¶ 20 (quoting [ECF No. 1] Exhibit A, ¶ 15). On February 2, 2016, Evans terminated his employment with Defendant and began employment with Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 11 and 27.

         On March 1, 2016, Defendant sent Strickland, Evans, and Plaintiff a cease and desist letter. [ECF No. 1] Exhibit B and C. The Evans letter requested confirmation in writing that

(1) [Evans] will immediately stop working at HLT/Sam's Club Altoona, (2) [Evans] will not work at any HLT/Sam's Club location within a 20 mile radius of where you worked at Hearing Instruments from February 12, 2016 to February 12, 2018. This includes within a 20 mile radius of Hearing Instruments' Altoona, Greensburg, Bedford, Indiana, Somerset, Johnstown and Camp Hill locations.

[ECF No. 1] Exhibit B at 2. The Strickland letter alleged that Strickland's solicitations "to induce current or former employees of Hearing Instruments to work for HLT in breach of their Employment Agreements, including Mr. Evans, are actionable as tortious interference with contract and unfair competition." [ECF No. 1] at ¶ 51. The letter addressed to HLT demanded "HLT employees [] refrain from further soliciting Hearing Instruments' employees and former employees to work for HLT in violation of their Employment Agreements." [ECF No. 1] Exhibit Cat 2.

         On October 20, 2016, HLT filed a complaint for declaratory judgment alleging that the restrictive covenants in the Strickland Agreement and Evans Agreement are, as a matter of law, void and unenforceable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). [ECF No. 1] at ¶¶ 38 and 55. Plaintiff further alleges the agreements do not prohibit HLT from employing Strickland and Evans.[1] Id. Plaintiff's declaratory judgment claim is the only claim brought.

         On December 19, 2016, over nine months after sending its cease and desist letter, Defendant filed the following complaints in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania: (1) Breach of Contract against Evans; (2) Violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secrets Act against HLT and Evans; (3) Tortious Interference with Contract against HLT and Strickland; (4) Tortious Interference with Current and Prospective Business Relationships against HLT, Evans, Strickland; and (5) Unfair Competition against HLT, Evans, and Strickland. [ECF No. 8] at 4. Notably, one day after filing its state court claims, Defendant filed the instant ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.