"Kelly Services Wins Attorneys Fees in Noncompete Case"
Attorneys’ fees in an ongoing case don’t have to be calculated by a jury under the Seventh Amendment, the appeals court wrote in an unpublished opinion.
The three former employees—Dale de Steno, Jonathan Persico, and Nathan Peters—signed employment agreements that barred them from working for competing companies for one year after leaving Kelly. The agreements also said that the employees would pay any legal fees Kelly incurred in enforcing these agreements.
The company said the three violated the agreement by going to work for a competitor.
Kelly won a preliminary injunction from the district court that blocked the former employees from working for the competitor. Since this injunction was in place for the duration of the noncompete clauses, the court never reached a final decision on whether the defendants actually breached their contracts.
The district court also awarded Kelly over $72,000 in attorneys’ fees, which the defendants appealed.
The defendants owe Kelly attorneys’ fees under the terms of their employment contracts, the appeal court affirmed.
It rejected the defendants’ argument that the amount of the fees should have been calculated by a jury, not the district court, pursuant to the Seventh Amendment.
Under the Seventh Amendment, parties only have a right to have juries determine “legal” issues, as opposed to “equitable” issues, the court said. It would be “highly impractical” for juries to calculate attorneys’ fees for an ongoing case, while the parties are still incurring those expenses, the court said.
Kelly Services is represented by McDonald Hopkins LLC. The defendants are represented by Strobl & Sharp PC.
The case is Kelly Services, Inc. v. De Steno, 6th Cir., No. 18-01118, unpublished 1/10/19.