A Minnesota state court has ruled in favor of USI Insurance Services LLC in poaching litigation it brought against Alliant Insurance Services Inc. and a former USI employee who left to join Alliant.
Vanessa Anderson became a USI employee after USI acquired her former employer, CHS Insurance Services LLC, in May 2018, according to Wednesday’s ruling by a Stillwater, Minnesota, court in Kibble & Prentice Holding Co., d/b/a/ USI Insurance Services Northwest vs. Vanessa Anderson and Alliant Services Inc.
Mrs. Anderson signed an employment agreement in April 2018, in which she agreed to provide at least 60 days’ written notice before terminating her employment, and which included restrictions against soliciting or serving USI clients for at least two years.
Mrs. Anderson resigned from USI, effective immediately, in February 2021and began working for Alliant, according to the ruling. She initially directed USI customers to Alliant producers, then began servicing her former USI customers herself in November 2021, the ruling said.
The court granted partial summary judgment to USI on its claim that Ms. Anderson had breached his employment agreement with respect to its 60-day notice, non-solicitation and non-competition clauses.
“Anderson’s employment agreement is a valid and enforceable contract,” the ruling said. “Alliant had knowledge of the employment agreement and willfully breached it without justification,” it said. “Only the issue of damages remains for trial.”
USI has also sued another former employee, Lee Tillerman, who left at the same time to join Alliant, in Minnesota state court, according to the broker. It has also filed similar lawsuits on the issue in Oregon and Idaho.
USI had no comment on the ruling, and a lawyer for Alliant and Ms. Anderson did not respond to a request for comment.
In a related case, in May, a federal appeals court upheld a preliminary injunction enforcing a non-compete agreement in a lawsuit against former USI employee Michael Aitkin, who had also worked for CHS, who left to join Alliant in April 2018. A trial in that case is set for February 8.