A Virginia Beach Circuit judge has found a noncompete agreement invalid and unenforceable after a medical company sought to enforce the covenant against a family nurse practitioner who sought to start another medical business. The case is Patient First v. Blanco and was decided on February 15, 2011.
The facts of the case are straightforward. Ms. Blanco, a nurse practitioner, left her employment with Patient First and opened a similar business one month later, The Practice, Set Fee Clinic. Patient First promptly filed suit to enforce a covenant not to compete, among other issues.
The noncompete provided that Blanco could not work at a competing business within seven miles of where she worked for two years after leaving Patient First and could not perform “urgent care medical services” within 15 miles of a Patient First.
It doesn’t appear the judge had any problems with the geographical scope of the noncompete agreement but found the contract unenforceable due to language that Blanco could not perform the services of the type she performed at Patient First “directly, or indirectly, for [herself] or as an agent, officer director, member, partner, shareholder, independent contractor owner or employee … .”
The trial judge ruled this language “…would prohibit the defendant (Blanco) from owning stock in a public traded company if some part of that company provided the same medical services as the defendant, and had a location within seven miles of where the defendant ‘regularly provided medical services for Patient First,” The judge noted, “…there are certainly companies that would fit these parameters that would not be in competition with Patient First.”
In essence, the judge correctly found that Patient First did not have a reasonable business interest in prohibiting this type of conduct by ex-employees.
My Take: Another Good Win for Virginia Employees!