Courtesy. Renee Phinney and Charles Zweil work for Palm Printing.

Employees vindicated in trade secrets lawsuit

Plaintiff, Sarasota-based Spotlight Graphics, has 30 days to re-file a case.
By: 
Aug. 31, 2018

SARASOTA — A Sarasota County judicial magistrate has dismissed a lawsuit against a Sarasota printing company and two individual defendants who were accused of unfair and deceptive trade practices, theft of trade secrets and other counts.

Magistrate Deborah Bailey of the 12th Circuit Court, after a hearing held Aug. 30, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sarasota-based Spotlight Graphics owner and president John Souza. Souza, through Sarasota attorney Michael Fayard, alleged in his lawsuit that two of Spotlight’s most respected employees — Renee Phinney and Charles Zweil, had engaged in the trade secret wrongdoing around the time they planned to leave the firm. Phinney and Zweil now work for Sarasota-based Palm Printing.

Bailey’s ruling leaves Spotlight Graphics 30 days to re-file an amended lawsuit.

Fayard, with Fayard Law, didn’t return calls Aug. 30 seeking comment, and has previously declined to comment on the case. An attorney for Phinney and Zweil, Jennifer Compton, with the Sarasota office of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, also declined to comment on the case and the recent ruling.

Compton, in court filings prior to the ruling, contended the case was without merit, and, for one example, Souza’s allegations failed to include any non-solicitation or non-compete agreements. “The allegations amount to nothing more than employees leaving one employer for another and business following the employees to their new employer,” one motion states, “since no expectation of future business or agreement to continue the business relationship has been alleged.”

In addition, Compton contends “Spotlight failed to sufficiently plead that the information in question constitutes a trade secret. Plaintiff has pled no facts whatsoever outlining that the information is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”

In another section of that motion, attorneys for Phinney and Zweil write that Spotlight “offers no other details regarding the ‘removed items.’”