Charity sues charity for theft of donor list

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Jul 8, 2008

MARSHALL – Two employees and a board member of the Longview charity American Syringomyelia Alliance Project ("ASAP") recently resigned and started a new nonprofit with the same mission.

ASAP believes they took more than experience to the new nonprofit and asserts one or more of the former staff members took a copy of ASAP's database of donors.

Alleging theft and conversion of trade secrets, the American Syringomyelia Alliance Project filed suit against Chari and Syringomyelia Foundation on July 1, in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Starting 20 years ago as a grass-roots organization, ASAP helps people suffering from syringomyelia and Chiari malformations, which are conditions that affect the lower brain and spinal cord. The ASAP states it seeks to improve the lives of those affected through patient and caregiver support, public awareness, patient and professional education, advocacy and support of biomedical research.

ASAP believes that its former employee, now the Chari and Syringomyelia Foundation current executive director, took a copy of the database of donors that ASAP has maintained since its founding.

ASAP maintains the database was a closely guarded asset and is proprietary in nature.

The password protected database contains donors' private personal information that is highly confidential and "invaluable for fundraising and communication to interested parties," the suit states. The plaintiff maintains there is no adequate remedy at law due to the nature of donation solicitations and the difficulty connecting donations or to quantify any change in donations.

ASAP argues it has specific and explicit evidence that the foundation obtained possession of its property violating the Texas Theft Liability Act. The plaintiff is asking for an injunction ordering the plaintiff to return all of the proprietary and trade secret documents and information and that the foundation cease from contacting donors listed in the database.

Longview attorney Stayton "Bud" Worthington of the law firm Coghlan Crowson LLP is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No 2:08cv00262

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