Company claims former employee disclosed trade secrets to competitors

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Nov 21, 2011

GALVESTON - Garner Environmental Services Inc. claims a former employee is using and disclosing its confidential information and trade secrets to its competitors, recent court documents say.

According to a lawsuit filed Nov. 15 in Galveston County District Court, Texas City resident Joe W. Miller violated a nondisclosure agreement with Garner when he contacted rival Phoenix Pollution Control Services Inc. about proposal submissions to the plaintiff's existing customers.

The suit also accuses the defendant, who was employed with Garner as a sales representative from August 2001 through October, of independently interacting with costumers despite the end of his services.

The original petition shows both parties consented to Miller being placed "in a position of trust and confidence to represent the company with existing and prospective clients concerning any and all products and services supplied by Garner."

"The position of sales representative, by nature, required access to Garner's confidential information," the suit says.

"As such, and in exchange for his continued position of sales representative and access to Garner's confidential information, the defendant entered into a confidentiality and assignment agreement by which he agreed to not use or otherwise disclose Garner's confidential information except for Garner's benefit within the course and scope of his employment with Garner."

It adds the respondent "further agreed that the nondisclosure covenant survived, and continued regardless of, termination of the defendant's employment with Garner."

In October, Miller worked on negotiating and preparing various proposals and bids to Valero Energy Corp., one of the plaintiff's clients, for the provision of standby response teams and related equipment and supplies.

He was dismissed shortly afterwards, but made to promise to continue protecting Garner's business secrets.

Garner argues the defendant failed to meet his post-employment obligations as he "utilized Garner's confidential information to his personal benefit in breach of his agreement" when he approached Valero and Phoenix.

"As a result of the defendant's breach and interference, Garner has lost existing and potential contractual work," the suit says.

Consequently, the complainant seeks no more than $5 million in damages.

Coats Rose is representing Garner, and Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss is presiding over the case.

Case No. 11-cv-1790

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