Plaintiff appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County entered in favor of all defendants upon allowance of defendants' motion to strike its complaint and dismiss the cause of action.
In Count I of its complaint plaintiff alleges that for approximately 39 years it had engaged in the business of selling mill supplied at wholesale, that it enjoyed a good reputation and the goodwill of many customers who constantly and continually purchased its goods, that defendants, Leonard M. Lee, LeRoy L. Lee and Clara Lee, copartners, doing business as Lee Supply & Tool Company, were for a long period of time engaged in a business similar to that of plaintiff, that in July 1965, these defendants attempted to institute preliminary negotiations to purchase all of plaintiff's assets including its goodwill, but that the negotiations were not further pursued because plaintiff expressed no interest in a sale, that plaintiff on January 11, 1966, employed 15 persons among whom were defendant, Frank R. Garapolo, who served as its sales manager and also engaged in selling plaintiff's merchandise, defendant, George A. Stadler, its chief purchasing agent, defendants, John L. Jach and Lee V. Cunningham, employed as salesmen, and defendant, Viola A. Henderson, its assistant purchasing agent, that each of these defendants performed duties "which were the very essence of plaintiff's business," each was a key employee and thus, in the course of his duties had acquired confidential information important to the operation of
Plaintiff also alleges:
Plaintiff further alleges that the defendants who are its former employees "have threatened to and in fact intend to disclose" the confidential information to the defendants Lee, and intend to convert plaintiff's long experience, acumen and goodwill and transfer same to the defendants Lee by depriving plaintiff of all or a great part of its principal customers and key employees, that the defendants who are its former employees, at the behest of defendants Lee, in furtherance of their unlawful, wrongful and malicious purposes caused another salesman-employee to terminate his employment with plaintiff without notice; that by reason of the "aforesaid conspiracy among and between the defendants and their aforesaid overt acts" plaintiff has been deprived of virtually all its key employees, will be deprived of its goodwill, the greater part of its customers and will be competitively damaged and its business destroyed.
In Count II plaintiff repeats and realleges many of the allegations of Count I, alleges that it will sustain great and irreparable damage unless its former employees are restrained from revealing the confidential information above described and prays the issuance of a writ of injunction.
Defendants, jointly moved to strike the complaint, deny the writ of injunction and dismiss the action on the
The motion was argued and allowed, plaintiff elected to stand on its complaint, the complaint was stricken and the case dismissed, and this appeal followed.
Defendants contend before this court that the complaint does not (a) state a cause of action for the reason that it does not contain such information as reasonably informs the defendants of the nature of the claim which they are called upon to meet (b) charge defendants with an actionable conspiracy to injure plaintiff's business (c) state a cause of action for unjustifiable interference with the relationship of employer and employee (d) contain allegations which establish a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing owed by an employee to his employer.
"It is well settled the mere allegation of a conspiracy does not of itself constitute the allegation of a wrong upon which liability for damages may be predicated. It is the act performed in pursuance of the agreement that may result in liability." Bertash Market Co. v. Brown, 70 Ill.App.2d 8, 16, 217 N.E.2d 362.
In a case decided in England in 1880 (Bowen v. Hall, 50 LJQB 305) the court said: "Merely to persuade a person to break his contract may not be wrongful in law or fact. But, if the persuasion be used for the indirect purpose of injuring the plaintiff, or of benefiting the defendant at the expense of the plaintiff, it is a malicious act, which is law and in fact a wrong act, and therefore a wrongful act, and therefore an actionable act if injury ensues from it.... The theory of this doctrine is that a party to a contract has a property right therein which a third person has no more right maliciously to deprive him of, or injure him in, than he would to injure his property real or personal, and that therefore such an injury amounts to a tort for which the injured party may claim compensation by an action in tort for damages. Under such circumstances to say that the injured party has his remedy against the other contracting party is in many cases offering a mere shadow for substance, for oftentimes the other party to the contract may be financially irresponsible. The contractual relation of master and servant is still that with reference
The Supreme Court in Doremus v. Hennessy, 176 Ill. 608, 52 NE 924, followed Bowen v. Hall and as the Appellate Court said in Cook-Master, Inc. v. Nicro Steel Products, Inc., 339 Ill.App. 519, 90 N.E.2d 657, at page 534: "We need not look beyond Doremus v. Hennessy.... The rule there laid down has not been departed from in this state."
In Schulenburg v. Signatrol, Inc., 33 Ill.2d 379, 212 N.E.2d 865, at page 387, the Supreme Court said: "It is clear that an employee may take with him, at the termination of his employment, general skills and knowledge acquired during his tenure with the former employer. It is equally clear that the same employee may not take with him confidential particularized plans or processes developed by his employer and disclosed to him while the employer-employee relationship exists, which are unknown to others in the industry and which give the employer advantage over his competitors. The facts and circumstances in a particular case sometimes
In their argument under sections I and II of their brief, defendants charge many deficiencies in the language of the complaint. If such deficiencies do in fact exist, they are semantic, and not legal, in nature, and do not serve to render the complaint insufficient as a matter of law.
For the reasons herein set forth the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County is reversed and the cause remanded with directions to vacate the order of dismissal and for further proceedings consistent with his opinion.
Judgment reversed and cause remanded with directions.
EBERSPACHER and MORAN, JJ., concur.