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Bluestone Physician Services, P.A. v. Moericke

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 13, 2017

Bluestone Physician Services, P.A., Plaintiff,
v.
Lora Moericke, Margaret Mattice and Synergy Medical Services, LLC, Defendants.

          James C. Remington, Esq. and Husch Blackwell, LLP, counsel for plaintiff.

          Mark T. Berhow, Esq. and Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, counsel for defendants.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter came before the court upon the motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) by plaintiff Bluestone Physician Services, P.A. The court denied the motion from the bench with this written order to follow.

         BACKGROUND

         Bluestone is a Minnesota corporation engaged in the business of providing on-site medical care to patients residing in assisted living facilities in Wisconsin, among other places. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 13, 15. Defendants Lora Moericke and Margaret Mattice began working at Bluestone as nurse practitioners in November 2015. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17. At the outset of their employment, both Moericke and Mattice signed the Bluestone Employment Agreement (the Agreement). Id. ¶¶ 16, 17; see id. Exs. A and B. Under the Agreement, for a period of one year following termination of employment with Bluestone, neither Moericke nor Mattice shall:

(a) provide similar onsite primary care services to any residential care facility serviced by [Bluestone] (a “Customer”);
(b) solicit, induce or attempt to induce any Customer to terminate or breach any written or oral agreement, business arrangement or understanding with [Bluestone]; [or] ...
(d) engage or participate in any business or practice within the Practice Territory that is in competition with the business of [Bluestone] without [Bluestone's] written permission ....

Compl. Ex. A, Art. 6.1. “Practice Territory” is defined as “[t]he geographic area within a radius of ten (10) miles of any assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing or group home community/facility or location from which [Moericke or Mattice] provide[d] medical services on behalf of” Bluestone. Id.

         Moericke resigned from Bluestone on October 21, 2016, effective November 4, 2016. Compl. Ex. C. Mattice followed suit by departing Bluestone on December 27, 2016. Id. Ex. D. Moericke began working for defendant Synergy Medical Service, LLC, a competitor of Bluestone, on November 28, 2016. Moericke Decl. ¶ 7.

         After reviewing the Agreement, Synergy assigned Moericke to facilities in the Green Bay area because she did not see patients there while employed by Bluestone. Id. ¶ 10. Moericke maintains that she has not provided medical services on behalf of Synergy at any facility she serviced during her tenure with Bluestone. Id. ¶ 11.

         Synergy hired Mattice on January 3, 2017, and assigned her to facilities in Appleton, which is outside the territory she covered while employed by Bluestone. Mattice Decl. ¶¶ 10, 13. Synergy also assigned Mattice to certain nursing homes in Green Bay because, according to Mattice, Bluestone does not provide nursing home care. Id. ¶ 14. On January 15, 2017, Mattice also began providing services to certain of her former Bluestone patients because Bluestone, at least in part, withdrew from the market. Id. ¶ 17. Although whether Bluestone withdrew from the entire Wisconsin territory at issue is unclear, the record does support a finding that Bluestone stopped doing business in at least some of the facilities Synergy now serves. See Williams Decl. Exs. 1-5.

         On February 2, 2017, Bluestone filed this suit alleging that Moericke and Mattice breached the non-competition and other covenants in the Agreement, that Mattice breached her duty of loyalty to Bluestone, and that Synergy tortiously interfered with the Agreement. Bluestone seeks damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. The next day, Bluestone moved for a temporary restraining order to enjoin Moericke and Mattice from violating the Agreement.[1] After full briefing and oral argument, the court denied the motion from the bench.[2] In so ruling, the court relied on the four familiar ...


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