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Mobile Mini, Inc. v. Vevea

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 25, 2017

MOBILE MINI, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
LIZ VEVEA, CITI-CARGO & STORAGE CO., INC. and LOGISTICS SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

          Patrick R. Martin, for plaintiff.

          William M. Topka, for defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S PRELIMINARY INJUNCTON MOTION AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Mobile Mini, Inc. (“Mobile Mini”) and Defendant Citi-Cargo & Storage Co., Inc. (“Citi-Cargo”) are direct competitors in the portable storage business. Mobile Mini's former sales representative for the region encompassing Minnesota - Defendant Liz Vevea - left Mobile Mini in November 2016 and subsequently transitioned to working at Citi-Cargo after first possibly working for a brief period for Defendant Logistics Services, Inc. (“LSI”), which is owned by the same parent company as Citi-Cargo. Mobile Mini alleges that since LSI and Citi-Cargo hired Vevea, she has violated a number of provisions in a non-competition and non-solicitation agreement with Mobile Mini. Mobile Mini also alleges that LSI and Citi-Cargo tortiously interfered in the contractual relationship between Vevea and Mobile Mini. Mobile Mini seeks a preliminary injunction to enforce the terms of that contract.

         Vevea, Citi-Cargo, and LSI (collectively, “Defendants”) move for dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Defendants argue that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000.

         Because it is not legally impossible that a factfinder could award damages in excess of $75, 000, the Court will deny Defendants' motion to dismiss. Additionally, because Vevea likely solicited business from Mobile Mini's customers in violation of the contract and likely will continue to do so, and because those breaches could cause Mobile Mini irreparable harm, the Court will order some of Mobile Mini's requested preliminary injunctive relief.

         BACKGROUND

         I. FACTUAL HISTORY

         Vevea worked as a Sales Representative at Mobile Mini's Lino Lakes office starting March 25, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 16, May 19, 2017, Docket No. 1; Decl. of Eric Martinez (“Martinez Decl.”) ¶ 9, June 22, 2017, Docket No. 23.) As a condition of her employment at Mobile Mini, Vevea executed a Confidentiality, Non-Solicitation, Non-Compete and Inventions Agreement (the “Agreement”). (See Compl., Ex. A (“Agreement”).) Under the Agreement, Vevea agreed to certain restrictions on her activities in the Portable Storage Business[1] after the end of her employment with Mobile Mini, including:

a. not to work in the Portable Storage Business at a location within fifty miles of Mobile Mini's Lino Lakes office for six months, (id. ¶ 3);
b. not to make any Portable Storage Business sales to Company Customers[2]for nine months, (id. ¶ 4(b));
c. not to directly or indirectly solicit Company Customers for the purpose of making portable storage sales, (id. ¶ 5(a), (b)), or make referrals for profit related to Company Customer, (id. ¶ 5(c)), for twelve months;
d. not to poach current or former Mobile Mini employees with whom Vevea interacted to work for a competitor for twelve months, (id. ¶ 5(d)).

         Vevea resigned from her position at Mobile Mini on November 8, 2016. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Less than six months later, Vevea started working for LSI at a location less than fifty miles from Mobile Mini's Lino Lakes office.[3] According to Defendants, LSI is a “logistics company that provides over the road, dedicated, and local transportation services as well as non-asset based trucking services including freight brokerage, i.e., booking a load and finding someone to haul it or moving loads with other people's assets.” (Decl. of Allen Ofstehage (“Ofstehage Decl.”) ¶ 4, June 30, 2017, Docket No. 34.) LSI and Citi-Cargo are owned by the same parent company, and they share the same registered business office address, principal executive office address, and CEO. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-33 & Exs. C-D.) The parties do not dispute that Citi-Cargo operates in the Portable Storage Business as Mobile Mini's direct competitor. (See Id. ¶ 9; Ofstehage Decl. ¶ 3.)

         On May 11, 2017 - roughly six months after resigning from Mobile Mini - Vevea updated her LinkedIn account to reflect that she now works at Citi-Cargo. (Compl. ¶ 36.)

         The post stated:

I'm excited to have joined the Citi-Cargo Sales Team! We lease and sell clean, safe, and solid storage containers and offices. We are locally owned and operated, with local live voice answer. We offer same day delivery to the Metro, and have consistent rental rates with true monthly billing. Give me a call today for a quote. 651-295-2982.

(Id. & Ex. G.) The post also included photos of Citi-Cargo portable containers. (Id., Ex. G.) On May 17, 2017, Vevea put a second post on LinkedIn, which stated: “Call me today for a storage container quote from the cleanest, newest, safest and best container fleet in the State of Minnesota. Let's connect! 651-295-2982.” (Id. ¶ 43 & Ex. H.) Mobile Mini alleges that these posts were visible to Vevea's 500-plus LinkedIn connections, including one or more Company Customers or their representatives, and at least some if not all of these connections may have received an email notification about the new posts. (Compl. ¶¶ 37-39, 43; Decl. of Elizabeth Vevea (“Vevea Decl.”) ¶ 6, June 30, 2017, Docket No. 33.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mobile Mini initiated this action on May 19, 2017. Mobile Mini asserts two legal claims: breach of contract against Vevea (Count I) and tortious interference with contractual relationship against Citi-Cargo and LSI (Count II). (Id. ¶¶ 52-69.) Mobile Mini seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. (Id. at 15-17.)

         On June 1, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1).

         On June 22, 2017, Mobile Mini filed a motion for preliminary injunction.[4] Mobile Mini asks the Court to restart the clock on the non-competition and non-solicitation provisions in the Agreement to commence on the date of this Order and run for the same time periods specified in the Agreement. Alternatively, Mobile Mini asks the Court to extend the contractual time limits until a permanent injunction hearing.

         ANALYSIS

         I. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. ...


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