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Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District
March 2, 2005, Opinion Filed
CASE NO. 4D04-2662
[*881] WARNER, J.
Northern Trust Investments, N.A., appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for temporary injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of a covenant not to compete against its employee, Carl Domino. The court concluded that Domino presented evidence that Northern Trust materially breached its agreement with Domino prior to terminating his employment, preventing the company from obtaining equitable relief to enforce the non-competition agreement. We affirm the trial court's ruling.
Domino sold his company to Northern Trust for a substantial sum. As part of the agreement, Domino and his partners entered into employment [**2] contracts with Northern Trust. Domino's contract provided for compensation and contained a covenant not to compete if Domino resigned or was terminated for cause. As part of the compensation, the contract provided that Domino and other employees would be entitled to a retention bonus from a Retention Bonus Pool "consisting of cash in the amount of $ 7,000,000." Instead, the company paid bonuses based upon its arbitrary inclusion of only $ 4,000,000 in the pool. Domino objected. Some months later, Northern Trust terminated Domino for, among other things, soliciting another employee to leave the company and requesting reimbursement for expenses that had not been approved by the company, which Northern Trust considered a violation of its reimbursement policy.
After hearing all the evidence, both on the issue of Northern Trust's breach of contract and the reasons for Domino's termination, the trial court denied the injunction because it found Northern Trust did not prove it had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, given the evidence of its breach of contract in failing to fully fund the Retention Bonus Pool.
] A trial court's ruling on a motion for a temporary injunction [**3] is clothed with a presumption of correctness, subject to reversal only for a clear abuse of discretion. Gold Coast Chem. Corp. v. Goldberg, 668 So. 2d 326, 327 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996). ] The trial court may consider an employer's breach of the employment agreement when deciding whether to grant a temporary injunction to enforce a covenant not to compete. See Benemerito & Flores, M.D.'s, P.A. v. Roche, 751 So. 2d 91, 93-94 [*882] (Fla. 4th DCA 1999); Cordis Corp. v. Prooslin, 482 So. 2d 486, 490 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986). In Benemerito we quoted from Bradley v. Health Coalition, Inc., 687 So. 2d 329 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997), which said:
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896 So. 2d 880 *; 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 2457 **; 30 Fla. L. Weekly D 614
NORTHERN TRUST INVESTMENTS, N.A., Appellant, v. CARL J. DOMINO, Appellee.
Subsequent History: [**1] Released for Publication April 8, 2005.
Rehearing denied by Northern Trust v. Domino, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 5382 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist., Apr. 8, 2005)
Related proceeding at, Magistrate's recommendation at N. Trust Corp. v. Carl Domino, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111508 (S.D. Fla., Mar. 10, 2006)
Prior History: Appeal of a non-final order from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Timothy P. McCarthy, Judge; L.T. Case No. CA 04-1361 AD.
Pool, terminated, Bonus, temporary injunction, trial court, Retention, compete, employment contract, breach of contract, injunction, breached, substantial likelihood, trial court's ruling, enforce a covenant, present evidence, reimbursement, covenant, bonuses, merits
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Remedies, Injunctions, Preliminary & Temporary Injunctions, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Covenants, Contracts Law, Equitable Relief, Injunctions, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, Employment Contracts, Breaches, Conditions & Terms, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition, Noncompetition & Nondisclosure Agreements, Breach, Nonperformance, Breach of Contract Actions, General Overview, Material Breach, Wrongful Termination, Breach of Contract