Woman claims contract signed under duress

Kelly Holleran May 11, 2010, 3:40pm

A Silsbee woman wants the court to declare that she not be held to an agreement she claims she signed under duress with an alleged fictitious company.

Paula Cook Wright filed a lawsuit April 27 in Jefferson County District Court against Carl W. Wright of International Precious Metals.

Paula Wright claims she and Carl Wright, her soon-to-be ex-husband, together own a business called Carl Wright Enterprises, which sells precious metals, such as gold coins and gold bullions, to the public and dealers.

However, before Carl Wright initiated divorce proceedings against his wife, he forced her "under duress" to sign an agreement with International Precious Metals on July 2, 2007, according to the complaint. As part of the agreement, Paula Wright promised not to work for another precious metals company and promised to keep all trade secrets and confidential information to herself, the suit states.

Paula Wright says she only signed the agreement because Carl Wright and his lawyer told her that all Carl Wright Enterprises had to execute the agreement, and as an owner of the business, she had to also sign it.

But because the agreement is with International Precious Metals, which Paula Wright purports to be a fictitious and non-existent corporation, the agreement should not stand or be considered valid, the complaint says.

Paula Wright hopes the court declares the agreement as invalid because when Carl Wright initiated divorce proceedings, he forced her out of Carl Wright Enterprises, she claims.

"Since that time, Defendant has threatened Plaintiff with litigation pursuant to the terms of the purported Agreement with IPMI if Plaintiff attempted to work in the precious metals/coins/bullion industry in an effort to earn a living," the suit states.

If the court does not find the agreement invalid, Paula Wright still wants the agreement to be declared unenforceable because Carl Wright procured it by fraud, Paula Wright signed it under duress, it fails for lack of consideration and it constitutes an unlawful restraint of trade, according to the complaint.

In the alternative, Paula Wright wants the court to find Section VIII of the agreement, the "Trade Secrets and Confidential Information" section, unenforceable and Section IX through XI invalid, which contain the covenant to not compete.

In addition, Paula Wright seeks attorneys' fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Sonya B. Coffman and Richard L. Coffman of the Coffman Law Firm in Beaumont will be representing her.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: D186-725.

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