Saddlers Row v. Michael Dainton, Case No. 2-12-1941, Slip Op. (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. Apr. 23-2013)(Mullen)
In this case, Saddlers Row had employed Michael Dainton – a master saddler. As a condition of his employment, Dainton executed a non-compete agreement that prohibited him from working for a competitor for two years within 75 miles of Saddlers Row. After working for Saddlers Row for a number of years, Dainton went to work for a competitor a mere 7 miles away. Saddlers Row sued.
The trial court had determined that Saddlers Row had a legitimate business interest in its near permanent relationships with its customers, and that the two year term was reasonable. However, the trial court struck the non-compete due to the 75 mile radius being blatantly excessive. The trial court also refused to modify the non-compete, so as not to encourage employers from attempting to impose overly large areas where employees could not compete in the future. Accordingly, the trial court refused to enter a preliminary injunction.
The appellate court overturned as it determined the trial court abused its discretion in not modifying the geographic area of the non-compete to make it enforceable. On remand, the trial court was ordered to enter a preliminary injunction against Dainton.
One important factor that the appellate court considered was that Dainton understood and had agreed to the provision when he entered Saddlers Row’s employ. In addition, Dainton was not fired, but rather decided to leave Saddlers Row to go work for a competitor that he knew was within the geographic range of his non-compete.