Just in Case (Alabama Secrets Series Book 1)

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When counsel for Group challenged Darnell on the basis that he could not state under oath that he had given the e-mails to Group , Darnell answered:. All that Group presented in opposition to these explanations was the testimony of Williams that he had gone through the approximately 22, documents produced by Systrends and had not found among them the three e-mails about which Brooks and Williams were questioned. If the evidence warrants, a trial judge may properly charge a jury in a civil case, using Alabama Pattern Jury Instructions: Civil, For all that appears, the trial judge was not satisfied that sufficient evidence had been adduced, as opposed to argument of counsel, that Brooks or Systrends had attempted wrongfully to hide or conceal the items in question.

At any rate, the jury was not instructed that it could draw any adverse inference from any deficiencies in the document-production responses of Brooks and Systrends; consequently, Group cannot now shore up its evidentiary presentation by arguing such an inference. The trial judge properly charged the jury that it might draw reasonable inferences from the facts established by the evidence, but that "the inference may not be based upon another inference.

In other words, you can't have one inference and you base an inference on that inference. First Nat'l Bank, So.

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Patterson, So. Khirieh v. State Farm Mut. The inferences on which Group seeks to rely in arguing that it presented substantial evidence indicating that Systrends used Group trade secrets involved in creating InsideAgent to develop Systrends' TransactionBridge software are not reasonably derivable from the facts in evidence, but rather impermissibly require that inferences be based upon inferences. In the final analysis, Group did not carry its burden of proving by substantial evidence the particular claim it made under the ATSA, that Systrends used trade secrets of Group , which evolved during the development of InsideAgent, to create TransactionBridge.

Brooks and Systrends each properly asserted that failure of proof in moving for a judgment as a matter of law at the conclusion of the plaintiff's case and again at the conclusion of all the evidence. Brooks and Systrends each thereafter reiterated that ground in their respective renewed motions for a judgment as a matter of law filed after entry of judgment.

That ground was well taken, as explained above, and the motions for judgment as a matter of law should have been granted with respect to Group 's claims asserting that Brooks and Systrends had violated the ATSA. Consequently, we reverse the judgments to that extent and remand the case for the entry of judgments in favor of Brooks and Systrends on Group 's claims against them based on misappropriation of a trade secret.

Because of this disposition, we need not consider Brooks and Systrends' separate argument that Brooks's knowledge and "know how" of the process of creating and developing InsideAgent would not constitute a trade secret under the ATSA. To sustain its remaining claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract against Brooks and tortious interference with contract against Systrends, Group was required to prove, among other things, the damages resulting from those civil wrongs.

Hensley v. Poole, So. See also Serra Chevrolet, Inc.

Edwards Chevrolet, Inc. Polytec, Inc. Aaron, So. Although they need not be proved to a mathematical certainty, "damages [for breach of contract] may not be awarded where they are remote or speculative. A jury must have some reasonable basis for the amount of its award. See also Ricwil, Inc. Standeffer, So. See also Birmingham News Co. Horn, So.

When a plaintiff fails to demonstrate damage or injury attributable to the defendant's breach of contract or tortious act, a judgment awarding damages should not stand. See, e. Poole, supra, Parsons v. Aaron, supra. Group 's evidence concerning the extent of its damages came solely from Williams and Group 's expert witness, Steven Dauphin. Williams confirmed that those figures represented his judgments as to the value of Group as of those times.

He considered its value at the time of trial to be "basically zero. Brooks and Systrends," with "the primary, by far the biggest" damage coming from the fact that Brooks "left and [took] our trade secrets and competed with us. Asked if he had ruled out the various other causative factors that might have caused a decline in the value of Group , Williams responded:. Using that as a base figure, and projecting an annualized growth rate of Brooks and Systrends assail Dauphin's assumptions and methodology on a number of fronts, particularly with respect to his utilization of a growth rate he based solely on an index published by a third party for totally different uses and the components of which Dauphin did not know.

We need not resolve those issues, however, because even if we accept Dauphin's damages estimate without reservation, it does not supply the evidence Group was required to present to establish its damages associated with its separate claims.

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In that regard, we find the following testimony by Dauphin determinative in our subsequent discussions:. Group argued to the trial judge during postjudgment hearings that if all of the compensatory damages awards were added up, "this jury almost hit nine million dollars exactly," awarding "almost nine million dollars worth of compensatory damages, but they split it up based upon what they thought Brooks did and what they thought Systrends did. What we must address is whether, under the principles discussed above and given our invalidation of the amounts awarded for alleged ATSA violations by Brooks and Systrends, the separate amounts the jury awarded for Brooks's alleged breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and Systrends' alleged tortious interference with contract are sustainable under the evidence presented.

Brooks and Systrends properly raised and preserved this issue in their respective motions for a new trial, and they have each properly argued it in their appellate briefs. Brooks's principal brief, pp. Allied Supply Co. Brown, So. In paragraph 6 of his employment agreement with Group , Brooks committed that he would "not directly or indirectly, engage or participate in any activities at anytime during the term of this Employment Agreement in conflict with the best interests of [Group ].


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The jury was entitled to conclude from the evidence presented, drawing reasonable inferences adverse to Brooks, that he had surreptitiously interviewed with Sterling for a job, knowing that any interest it might have in acquiring Group would thereby be undercut, thus representing bad faith on his part in not acting in the best interests of Group Williams's testimony established that Brooks's actions in that regard had sabotaged further talks with Sterling about the possibility of its acquiring Group The totality of this evidence was substantial evidence indicating that Brooks had breached a fiduciary duty he owed Group and that it was damaged as a result.

Moreover, the only argument Brooks offered in support of his motion for a judgment as a matter of law after Group rested with respect to this claim was that because Group was an Alabama limited liability company, it was "governed by the Alabama LLC Act" and by its own operating agreement and "[t]he duties incumbent on the people involved in the LLC flow if anywhere from those two sources.

Consequently, Brooks contended, because the only fiduciary duty alleged in the complaint to have been breached by Brooks was that owing by him as an employee, "[t]here is no source of a duty.

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If there is no source of a duty, there can be no breach of that duty. This argument, repeated on appeal, was not well taken because, as noted, under the principles stated in Allied Supply Co. When Brooks renewed his motion for a judgment as a matter of law at the close of all the evidence, he simply relied on the same grounds he had previously asserted as to this issue, except to state in passing, "there is no duty fiduciary duty on Mr. Brooks in the situation as an employee.

Brooks's only objection to that portion of the charge was that he took "exception to that portion of the charge that characterized Dick Brooks as a corporate officer under the breach of fiduciary duty claim. That claim is against him as an employee of an L. He is not a corporate officer. Alabama Dep't of Transp. Land Energy, Ltd. No testimony or other evidence in the record suggests that amount, or anything in that range, as resulting from Brooks's breach of his fiduciary duty.

There is no conceivable connection under the evidence between Brooks's unwillingness to relinquish that contractually specified amount and the alleged breach of his fiduciary duty.

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There being no evidentiary basis for the compensatory damages awarded for Brooks's breach of his fiduciary duty to Group , his motion for a new trial making that point was due to be granted, and its denial constituted reversible error. Because the compensatory-damages award has been eliminated, the punitive damages awarded on this claim must also be vacated.

Mobile Infirmary Med. Hodgen, So. Smith, So. Brooks and Systrends argue that the trial court erred in denying their motion for a judgment as a matter of law as to the validity of the noncompetition provision. They further asserted that even if the trial court applied the definition in the provision of Group 's "territory" as "the entire world," the scope was still unreasonable and the provision void. Clark v. Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. See also Clark, So.

Puckett, So. In paragraph 19 of their motion, Brooks and Systrends acknowledged that Alabama courts may restrict overly broad provisions of agreements in restraint of trade and instead enforce reasonable limitations as to location. We recently recognized:. King v.

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As noted earlier, the agreement between Brooks and Group states, in relevant part, that if any provision relating to the geographical area of the restriction should be judicially declared to exceed the maximum geographical areas deemed reasonable by the court, the geographical area deemed reasonable and enforceable by the court would be the maximum geographical area. By the parties' agreement, therefore, the trial court had additional authority to limit the scope of the restrictive covenant.

They assert that our cases, which analyze noncompetition agreements in an equitable context and permit courts to restrict overly broad noncompetition agreements, do not apply to a case where money damages are sought in addition to injunctive relief. Because Brooks and Systrends raise this argument regarding strict construction and a circuit court's equitable power for the first time on appeal, we will not consider it. Compass Bank, So. Brown v. Vincent's Hosp. Under the evidence before the trial court at the time Brooks and Systrends moved for a judgment as a matter of law, Brooks's actions in violation of the noncompetition provision implicated a geographically reasonable area.

The evidence showed that for most of the time Brooks worked on those matters he lived in Alabama. Accordingly, the trial court could have reasonably restricted the noncompetition provision to those areas and properly submitted Group 's claims to the jury.

Wright, So. University of Alabama Health Servs. See also Wilson v. Athens-Limestone Hosp. Regarding Brooks and Systrends' additional argument that, as written, the noncompetition provision would impose an undue hardship on Brooks and was therefore void, we note that the provision merely prohibited Brooks from competing with Group for one year and did not otherwise prevent him from obtaining employment within the relevant industry.

Furthermore, as restricted to the geographic areas at issue in the action, the provision imposed no undue hardship. We therefore affirm the trial court's denial of Brooks's and Systrends' motions for a judgment as a matter of law as to this argument as well. No party objected to the trial court's submission to the jury for determination the questions of "whether or not the contract between Group and Richard Brooks was valid and enforceable" and "whether or not the area and time is reasonable or not for the protection of the interest of Group in this case.

The charge, therefore, which placed the determinations of whether the noncompetition provision was void and whether the provision was unreasonably restrictive as to location within the province of the jury, became the law of the case, and authorized the jury to act in conformity with that charge. See Alabama Dep't of Transp. Land Energy, supra. After the jury's verdict for Group , Brooks and Systrends renewed their motions for a judgment as a matter of law. Because the jury charges were then the law of the case, the renewed motions must be viewed in that legal context.

From that viewpoint, the jury had the authority to, and did, decide that the noncompetition provision was valid and reasonably limited as to time. Under the evidence, and in light of the then existing law of the case, the trial court did not err in denying the renewed motions. We do not today decide whether, or under what circumstances, Alabama courts might enforce a noncompetition agreement that specifies the "world" as a location. See Westwind Techs. Jones, So. Finally, because we decide the jury's verdict was not based upon sufficient evidence from which it could allocate damages, as explained elsewhere, and Brooks and Systrends therefore are entitled to a new trial, we need not address their motions for a new trial based on the question of the validity of the noncompetition provision.

Systrends argues that it was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on Group 's claim that it tortiously interfered with Brooks's employment agreement, because, it argues, that agreement was not enforceable. In that regard, Systrends adopts by reference the argument Brooks makes in his brief that the contract was void under Ala.

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We do not find that argument well taken, for the reasons already discussed. Systrends separately argues that because the restrictive covenant in Brooks's employment agreement appeared to Systrends to be void, it could not have intended to violate a valid contract. Systrends' principal brief, pp. Systrends cites no authority in support of this argument and "[w]hen an appellant fails to cite any authority for an argument on a particular issue, this Court may affirm the judgment as to that issue, for it is neither this Court's duty nor its function to perform an appellant's legal research.

Business Realty Inv. Systrends' further argument that Group failed to prove that Systrends intended to interfere with the contract because the evidence actually showed that Systrends "went to significant links to insure" that it did not interfere with the restrictive covenant Systrends' principal brief, p. That analysis also adequately established that Systrends' employment of Brooks in activities competitive to those of Group was detrimental to Group Accordingly, Systrends was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law as to the tortious-interference-with-contract claim.

We do agree with Systrends, however, that there was no evidence from which the jury reasonably could have based a determination of the share of the total damages that should be assigned to this particular claim. Therefore, Systrends was entitled to a new trial on that basis, and the trial court erred in denying its motion in that regard.

As explained earlier, elimination of the compensatory-damages award necessitates elimination of the punitive-damages award also. Because of this disposition, we pretermit discussion of Systrends' several other arguments as to why it was entitled to a new trial. We reverse the judgments against Brooks and Systrends on the claims respectively made against them for violation of the ATSA and remand the case for entry of a judgment in their favor on those claims.

We affirm the judgment denying Group 's request for a permanent injunction and attorney fees under the ATSA. For purposes of this appeal, however, the parties generally refer simply to "GISB," and this Court will follow suit. Enter your email. Systrends, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama. October 13, Rehearing Applications Denied December 15, Paul Zimmerman, Helena, for Richard J. The posttrial events giving rise to these appeals are accurately summarized by Brooks and Systrends in their respective but identical explanations of those events in their briefs, as follows: "The trial court entered judgment on a jury verdict on February 10, Systrends and Brooks timely filed post-judgment motions on March 11, Group filed a motion for permanent injunction and a motion for attorneys' fees.

By order signed on May 31, , and entered on June 1, , the trial court granted a new trial on the claims against Systrends and Brooks for misappropriation of trade secrets, denied Brooks' motion for new trial on the breach of fiduciary duty claim, conditioned upon 's refusal of a remittitur, and denied defendants' post-judgment motions in all other respects.

This ruling effectively denied or rendered moot 's motion for a permanent injunction and motion for attorneys fees, both of which were premised upon the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets. By order entered July 5, , the court granted 's motion, vacated the portion of its prior order granting a new trial on the trade secrets claim and ordered a remittitur of the punitive damages on the trade secrets claim.

Systrends and Brooks timely filed their initial notices of appeal on July 8, Case Nos. Pursuant to Rule 4, Ala. This order also included [Rule] 54 b [, Ala. On August 23, , and September 15, , respectively, Systrends and Brooks timely filed notices of appeal from the August 11, , judgment Case Nos.

Group 's request for attorneys fees and an injunction were denied or rendered moot by the granting of a new trial on the trade secrets claim, and those motions were not renewed after the new trial order was set aside and the judgment effectively reinstated. However, if the February 10, , judgment was not a final judgment, the order entered on August 11, , which included 54 b language, was final and appealable. In either case, this Court has jurisdiction over Systrends' and Brooks' appeals pursuant to Ala. Standard of Review In reviewing the denial of a motion for a judgment as a matter of law or the denial of a motion for a new trail, we consider the evidence in a light most favorable to the prevailing party, resolving all factual disputes in its favor.

Facts Brooks, a computer programmer, began creating software in the early s for conducting commercial transactions over the Internet. See also Beasley v. Schuessler, So. Campbell, So. Woodson, U. Leventhal v. Harrelson, So. A court has specific jurisdiction when a defendant has had few contacts with the forum state, but those contacts gave rise to the lawsuit.

Van Kleef], So. Superior Court of California, U. Brooks's Bankruptcy On August 6, , Brooks filed in Massachusetts a petition in bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, listing within the "Statement of Financial Affairs" section of his petition Group 's pending action against him. Brooks goes on to argue: "The discharge, once granted, replaces the automatic stay, acting as a permanent injunction against pursuing claims that were discharged. Brooks argues that, consequently, "[t]he trial court's refusal to admit evidence of the discharge was reversible error, as was the trial court's refusal to grant Brooks' Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict following trial.

One of them is how the decision to finally breach the compound was made. Police have said they were concerned about his erratic behavior, yet, to that point, Dykes had exhibited caring instincts for the boy. Over the weekend, police said Dykes, who was scheduled to go to court last week over a misdemeanor charge of menacing his neighbors with a shotgun, had a "story [to tell] that's important to him, although it is very complex.

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Systrends, Inc. v. GROUP 8760, LLC

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