The Business Court held today in Armacell v. Bostic that it had personal jurisdiction over an Italian company, L’Isolante, which hired a scientist, Bostic, away from a competitor.
The Plaintiff claimed that the hiring violated Bostic’s non-compete agreement, and that Bostic had also stolen "thousands of data files containing sensitive proprietary information and trade secrets."
The Business Court rejected the argument of L’Isolante that it was not subject to personal jurisdiction, finding that the Italian company had (1) pursued and offered employment to Bostic in North Carolina, (2) had obtained a legal opinion from its North Carolina counsel about the enforceability of Bostic’s non-compete agreement, (3) tasked Bostic with supporting, from North Carolina, L’Isolante’s research and development efforts, (4) worked directly with Bostic in North Carolina after he was hired, and (5) shipped samples of product to North Carolina.
The Court found these contacts to be "direct and strong," and that L’Isolante "had fair warning that these activities might subject it to the jurisdiction of North Carolina." Judge Tennille also held that "North Carolina’s interest in exercising jurisdiction over L’Isolante is substantial. This case involves the alleged theft of a large amount of trade secrets from a North Carolina company, with injury felt in North Carolina."
At his deposition, Bostic pled the Fifth Amendment about his alleged theft. In an earlier opinion, the Business Court drew an adverse inference from Bostic’s refusal to testify, and entered a preliminary injunction.