SIMPSON, Circuit Judge:
Premier Industrial Corporation, an Ohio corporation, (Premier), brought this action against Texas Industrial Fastener Company (TIFCO), a Texas corporation, and Ed Roos, seeking specific performance and other relief under an employment contract between Premier and Roos and a Settlement Agreement executed by the corporate parties in January and February of 1969. The lower court granted the requested relief. Error in its judgment is not demonstrated. Hence we affirm, with a slight modification.
Premier and TIFCO are business competitors engaged in commerce in Nebraska and other states. They engage in sales distribution of the same and similar products, i. e., industrial fasteners and automotive parts. During the several years prior to this action, TIFCO had hired several sales agents of Premier whose contracts of employment with Premier contained covenants not to compete. These covenants each provided that ex-employees would not associate in any way with any business in competition with Premier for a period of two years after termination of their employment contracts with Premier within the geographical sales area defined in the contracts.
TIFCO's proselyting of Premier's sales agents became the subject of several lawsuits brought by Premier to enjoin the employment by TIFCO of Premier's sales agents under anti-competition covenants. Finally, in January of 1969, the corporate parties to this suit entered into the aforementioned Settlement Agreement. In consideration of Premier's agreement to dismiss with prejudice a damage suit pending against TIFCO in the Harris County, Texas District Court for tortious interference with the contractual relationships of Premier with its sales agents, TIFCO agreed, inter alia, to no longer hire, employ or utilize in any manner any employee or exemployee of Premier in a manner so as to violate valid
The present action was precipitated by the hiring of one Ed Roos, a Premier employee, by TIFCO in January 1969.
The trial court held that it had jurisdiction of the case, and as to TIFCO:
1. that the Settlement Agreement was valid and enforceable;
2. that TIFCO willfully breached the agreement; and as to Roos:
1. that Premier's contract with Roos was executed without fraud, accident or mistake, was supported by consideration and mutuality, and that the terms of the contract were not vague or ambiguous;
2. that Premier had a valid economic interest to protect;
3. that the provisions of the covenants were reasonable, did not violate public policy or constitute an illegal restraint of trade; and
4. that Roos directly violated his contract with Premier.
In its final judgment, the trial court (1) enjoined TIFCO until January 1, 1972 from utilizing Roos' services in such a manner as to violate his anti-competition covenants with Premier; (2) ordered TIFCO to specifically perform the Settlement Agreement; (3) enjoined Roos until January 1, 1972 from violating his covenants with Premier; and (4) awarded Premier attorney's fees as provided in the agreement. TIFCO and Ed Roos both appealed.
On appeal, the appellants initially contend that the $10,000 jurisdictional amount required in diversity cases (Title 28, U.S.C., Section 1332) was not proven below.
The court below found that:
Appellants claim that this finding does not meet the requirements of Title 28, U.S.C., Section 1332. We disagree. This action was brought in equity, which by its very nature presupposes the difficulty of ascertaining actual damages. The value to the plaintiff of the rights he is seeking to protect is the measure of jurisdiction in equity cases, even though the value of that right may not be capable of exact valuation in money. See Hedberg v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 8 Cir. 1965, 350 F.2d 924; accord, Seaboard Finance Co. v. Martin, 5 Cir. 1957, 244 F.2d 329; also see, Dosdall v. Fraser, D.Mont.1965, 246 F.Supp. 311; Zep Mfg. Corp. v. Haber, S.D.Tex.1962, 202 F.Supp. 847; Burndy Corp. v. Cahill, D.Minn.1961, 196 F.Supp. 619. Nor has it been overly difficult in the past for federal courts to find the requisite jurisdictional amount in actions brought to enforce covenants not to compete. See, e. g., Hedberg v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., supra; National Chemsearch Corp. of N. Y. v. Bogatin, E.D.Penn.1964, 233 F.Supp. 802, vacated on other grounds, 3 Cir. 1965, 349 F.2d 363. The court below could have found the presence of the requisite amount in controversy as well as irreparable injury upon each of a
It should also be noted that the value of the attorney's fees Premier was entitled to recover under the Settlement Agreement (here, $3,500) is properly includable in determining the amount in controversy. See, Batts Restaurant, Inc. v. Commercial Ins. Co. of Newark, 7 Cir. 1969, 406 F.2d 118; Cupples Co. Mfrs. v. Farmers & Merchants St. Bank, 5 Cir. 1968, 390 F.2d 184. Thus although the value of the present and potential loss to Premier may be difficult of ascertainment, we think it is clear that this loss is considerable and of sufficient amount to confer jurisdiction in this case. The awkward phrasing used by the trial judge in framing his jurisdictional finding (supra) will not operate to defeat jurisdiction otherwise clearly present.
The other issues presented by TIFCO and Roos are that: (1) Premier should have had the burden of proving the legality (i. e., the reasonableness) of its covenants not to compete; (2) the covenants were void as against public policy; (3) the covenants violated contract law because of the lack of mutuality, consideration, etc.; and (4) the lower court could not by injunction extend the term of the covenants beyond the two years provided in the contract. In substance, however, appellants' argument is based upon the plight of Ed Roos and the alleged illegality of his anti-competition covenants with Premier.
Roos raises the same issue on appeal as he presented in the court below, namely that he should be excused from the application of the restrictive covenants because of their illegality and/or unenforceability. TIFCO's position essentially is that its hiring of Roos was not in violation of the Settlement Agreement since Roos' contract with Premier was invalid. These contentions are all lacking in merit.
There does not appear to be any dispute between the parties as to the state whose law governs these covenants. Roos' contract with Premier controls. See, 17 C.J.S. Contracts § 12(3) (1963), and the cases cited therein. The contract provides that the laws of the State of Ohio shall govern both as to interpretation and performance. It seems clear that the Roos contract is valid and enforceable under Ohio law. The leading case in Ohio is Extine v. Williamson Midwest, Inc., 176 Ohio 403, 200 N.E.2d 297 (1964), in which the Ohio Supreme Court held that "partial" restraints, as opposed to "general", are not void, but are judged as to enforceability under a rule of "reasonableness". The court went on to hold that a covenant not to compete is valid and enforceable where the restraint is partial and reasonably limited both in time and space. The court felt it was within its power to affirm even unreasonable contracts by applying the so-called "blue pencil" doctrine, i. e., by modifying those portions of the covenants which were unreasonable in restraint. The court in Extine sustained as reasonable a time restriction of two years, but modified the unlimited area restriction to a specific geographical area. For specific examples
Appellants' other contentions are equally unmeritorious. The record on appeal demonstrates that Premier sufficiently established the legality of its covenants at trial. Appellants' argument that the trial judge exceeded his discretion by enjoining the appellants beyond the time specified in the Roos contract is without merit. TIFCO had the benefit of Roos' services in Douglas County for over a year prior to the judgment below.
On February 16, 1971, this Court granted the appellants' motion to stay the injunctions below pending appeal, thus allowing TIFCO to utilize Roos' services until this appeal was concluded. Appellee asks that this Court now modify the judgment below to extend the injunctions granted for one year from the date of finality of this Court's judgment. It would be pointless to affirm the court below, only to have that court's relief terminate in January, 1972, a few months hence. We therefore sustain appellee's right to enjoyment of its injunctive relief for a meaningful period of time, and direct the trial court to modify the judgment below so as to extend the injunctions granted to a time one year from the date of that court's judgment enforcing our mandate.
The lower court's judgment, as modified, is affirmed. The Clerk is directed to assess the costs of this appeal against the appellants.