Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Chief Justice.
Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.
[¶1] Appellants, CBM Geosolutions, Inc. (CBM), Bret Noecker, and Brian LaReau, request relief from a preliminary injunction granted by the district court to Appellee, Gas Sensing Technology Corp. (GST), during an underlying lawsuit to enforce non-compete and non-disclosure agreements between the parties. Finding correct application of the law, and no abuse of discretion, we affirm.
[¶2] 1. Did the district court apply the correct legal standard in considering the request for a preliminary injunction?
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it issued a preliminary injunction pending trial on the merits in this action?
[¶3] Appellants Bret Noecker and Brian LaReau were employed by WellDog Inc., a company engaged in the business of measuring coal bed methane gas. Noecker began his employment with WellDog on or about January 9, 2003, at which time he signed a document entitled Employee Non-Compete Agreement. LaReau began his employment on or about August 31, 2004, and also signed an Employee Non-Compete Agreement. The wording of the non-compete agreements is identical and reads as follows:
For good consideration and as an inducement for WellDog Inc. (Company) to employ [Appellant] (Employee), the undersigned Employee hereby agrees not to directly or indirectly compete with the business of the Company and its successors and assigns during the period of employment and for a period of three (3) years following termination of employment and notwithstanding the cause or reason for termination.
The term "not compete" as used herein shall mean that the Employee shall not own, manage, operate, consult or to be employed in a business substantially similar to, or competitive with, the present business of the Company or such other business activity in which the Company may substantially engage during the term of employment.
The Employee acknowledges that the Company shall or may in reliance of this agreement provide Employee access to trade secrets, customers and other confidential data and good will. Employee agrees to retain said information as confidential and not to use said information on his or her own behalf or disclose same to any third party.
This non-compete agreement shall be in full force and effect for three (3) years, commencing with the date of employment termination.
This agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties, their successors, assigns, and personal representatives.
[¶4] Appellant Noecker left WellDog in March of 2004, but returned to work for the company in August of that same year. Noecker testified that he did not believe he signed another non-compete when he returned, however, he testified that he understood at the time of his reemployment that he was still bound by the non-compete agreement. John Pope, who supervised Appellants at WellDog, testified that it was standard procedure for every employee to sign a non-compete agreement. Noecker left WellDog in February of 2007. LaReau also left WellDog in 2007. Appellee GST purchased all WellDog's principal operating assets, including employee non-compete agreements, in November of 2007. The list of assets sold to GST included both of the original non-compete agreements as well ...