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The Expo Group, Inc. v. Castillo

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 25, 2019

THE EXPO GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF CASTILLO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          A. JOE FISH, Senior United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action was brought by the plaintiff, The Expo Group (“TEG”), against its former employee, Jeff Castillo (“Castillo, ” or “the defendant”), and arises from the defendant’s alleged breach of a non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreement. Before the court is the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. In accordance with Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court sets forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law below. For the reasons stated, the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction is granted.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         The Expo Group (“TEG”) is a national company that specializes in assisting clients grow their attendee, exhibitor, and sponsorship revenue at trade shows. Notice of Removal (docket entry 1), Exhibit A, ¶ 2.

         1. During or prior to July 2018, TEG purchased one of its competitors--Xpert. See Appendix to Plaintiff’s Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction (“Appendix in Support”) (docket entry 23) at 58, 110.

         2. The defendant, Jeff Castillo, worked as an account manager and then as director of account management at Xpert from 2015 until July 2018, when Xpert was purchased by TEG. Id. at 58.

         3. Incident to the purchase, TEG acquired all of Xpert’s equipment, property, industry knowledge, and trade secrets. Id. at 110.

         4. Following the purchase, Castillo was hired as an account manager involved in the production of trade shows at TEG in July, 2018. Id. at 58.

         5. On July 20, 2018, Castillo and TEG executed two agreements relating to Castillo’s employment: a “Non-Disclosure and Non-Solicitation Agreement, ” (the “NDA”), and a “Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Agreement” (the “confidentiality agreement”). See Appendix in Support at 5-6; 16-18.

         6. The confidentiality agreement defines confidential information to include “information concerning technical, administrative, management, financial or marketing activities of, or relating in any way to, TEG, its customers or its business (such as procedures, information processing processes, marketing plans and strategies, customer names, financial data, employee and salary information).” Appendix in Support at 16. The NDA provides that “[d]uring [Castillo]’s employment with TEG, TEG shall provide [Castillo] with access to some of TEG’s confidential information.” Id. at 5.

         7. In return, the NDA provides that during Castillo’s employment at TEG and for 24 months thereafter, Castillo will not “solicit, call on, communicate with, do business with, or attempt to do business with” any person or entity which is, or was at any time in the previous 12 months, a TEG client with which Castillo worked, “or about which [Castillo] received confidential information from TEG.” Appendix in Support at 5, ¶ 3 (“the non-solicitation covenant”).

         8. While working for TEG, Castillo managed trade shows and budgets, handled graphics, entertained clients, and went on sales pitches. Id. at 120. Castillo had access to some of TEG’s confidential information, including customer data, customer lists, marketing plans, and pricing arrangements. Id. at 113, 120. Castillo also had access to the financial books and records for the shows that he worked on at TEG. Id. at 121.

         9. Castillo worked with ten TEG clients between July 2018, when he was hired, and January 18, 2019, when he left the company.[1] Appendix in Support at 2-3, 93. Among them were the Cowboy Christmas and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (“RMEF”) shows: two events that occur annually and concurrently in the same event space and are owned by the same company, Las Vegas Events. Id. at 2, 69, 157; Defendant’s Response to Plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law (“Defendant’s Findings”) (docket entry 34) at 38.

         10. Castillo worked on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Cowboy Christmas shows as an account manager for Xpert. Appendix in Support at 73.

         11. Castillo served as TEG’s account manager for the Cowboy Christmas show in December, 2018, during the course of which he worked with and established a relationship with Bo Gardner (“Gardner”). Appendix in Support at 81, 101. Gardner was and remains an employee of Las Vegas Events, the company that owns the Cowboy Christmas and RMEF events. Id. at 35, 101.

         12. On January 5, 2019, Castillo accepted a position as an account manager at Las Vegas Expo (“LVE”), one of TEG’s competitors. Appendix in Support at 22, 64, 152. Then, on January 8, Castillo formally notified TEG that he was resigning from TEG and that January 18, 2019 would be his last day with TEG. Id. at 8, 64. Castillo began working at LVE the following day, on January 19, 2019. Id. at 160.

         13. Also in January 2019, though after he had left TEG, Castillo played golf with Gardner and informed him that he had left TEG and taken a job at LVE. Appendix in Support at 62.

         14. This was the first time that Castillo, while employed by LVE, discussed Cowboy Christmas with someone authorized to do business on behalf of Las Vegas Events. Defendant Jeff Castillo’s Response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction (“Response”)(docket entry 26), Exhibit 1, ¶ 13. Gardner asked Castillo if LVE is permitted to work in the convention center in which Cowboy Christmas was held in 2018, to which Castillo responded “yes.” Appendix in Support at 62; Response, Exhibit 1, ¶ 13.

         15. On February 19, 2019, Castillo sent the president of LVE, Nicholas Cordaro, an email stating that Castillo had “added Las Vegas Events into [LVE’s database] as a prospect, ” and outlining information about both RMEF and Cowboy Christmas that Castillo had obtained from his work on Cowboy Christmas in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Appendix in Support at 23, 72-73. Cordaro replied later that day, instructing Castillo to “get the show.” Id. at 24.

         16. Castillo also arranged a lunch meeting between himself, Cordaro, and Gardner, which took place in late February or early March of 2019. Appendix in Support at 68-69. During this meeting, the men discussed Cowboy Christmas’s branding change, its storage needs, and plans for the 2021 Cowboy Christmas and RMEF events. Id. at 69.

         17. On March 19, 2019, Castillo sent Cordaro a draft of a proposal for the 2019 Cowboy Christmas event. Se ...


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