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Total Safety v. Knox

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

December 18, 2019

TOTAL SAFETY et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALICIA KNOX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISSOLVE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          Hon. Charles Eskridge, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is a motion filed by Defendant Alicia Knox to dissolve the agreed preliminary injunction. Dkt 26. Upon consideration, the Court denies the motion.

         1. Background

         This case concerns alleged misappropriation of confidential business information and trade secrets. Plaintiffs Total Safety U.S. Inc and Total Safety Onsite Services Inc (together, Total Safety) assert that Knox misappropriated their confidential business information and trade secrets. They also allege that Knox violated the terms of her nonsolicitation agreement with her former employer, Airgas On-Site Safety Services Inc. Total Safety Onsite Services acquired Airgas in May 2019. Dkt 1 at 2.

         On July 24, 2019, Total Safety commenced this lawsuit against Knox, asserting violations of the Trade Secrets Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, misappropriation of trade secrets under Texas law, and breach of contract. Id. at 10-16. Total Safety also sought preliminary injunctive relief. Id. at 16-17.

         Rather than require hearing, Total Safety and Knox agreed to a preliminary injunction to avoid unnecessary costs and fees. Dkt 12-1 at 1. On July 30, 2019, the Court entered the agreed preliminary injunction. Dkt 13. Broadly, this injunction requires Knox to:

o Refrain from destroying, disclosing, or accessing evidence that may be relevant to the lawsuit;
o Refrain from directly or indirectly soliciting any customer of Total Safety or Airgas in violation of the nonsolicitation agreement; and
o Produce certain electronic devices for inspection and forensic analysis.

         The parties agree that Knox has complied with the third requirement.

         On November 1st, Knox filed a motion to dissolve the agreed preliminary injunction. Dkt 26. On December 5th, the Court held a status conference and heard argument on the motion. At the conference, the Court ordered Knox to file her reply, which she did on December 12th. Dkt 33.

         2. Legal standard

         The parties dispute the correct standard by which to modify or dissolve a preliminary injunction. Total Safety asserts that Knox must establish a “significant change in circumstances” to justify revision. Dkt 29 at 5. To the contrary, Knox asserts that the same standard applies to review of a motion to dissolve an injunction as it does to the decision whether to grant one in the first instance. Dkt 26 at 6. In her recent reply, Knox alternatively asserts that the Court should reconsider the preliminary injunction under FRCP 54(b). Dkt 33 at 6.

         As to Rule 54(b), a district court may reconsider and revise its prior decision for any reason deemed sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of the substantive law. Austin v Kroger Texas, LP, 864 F.3d 326, 336 (5th Cir 2017). This reflects “the ‘inherent power of the rendering district court to afford such relief from interlocutory judgments as justice requires.'” Id. at 337, quoting Cobell v Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 25-26 (DC Cir 2015). But here, Knox voluntarily agreed to the preliminary injunction in the first instance, which avoided establishing any factual predicate as to underlying conduct and ...


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