Monday, March 14, 2011, 3/14/2011 11:11:00 AM

Connecticut Court Says Law Firm's Former Associate Didn't Steal Trade Secrets

By Todd

Here's a relatively new one - the Connecticut Law Tribune is reporting that claims filed by the estate of a deceased attorney against his former associate were dismissed by the Connecticut trial court.

David Poirot was hired by Stephen F. Meo shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He served as an associate for Meo for 14 years, and said he got along well with both Steven Meo and his wife, Eloise Marinos.

Meo was hospitalized for a heart condition in October 2005. Poirot said he stayed at the office during Meo’s illness and sent letters to clients after his death giving them the option to retain his services. Meo died in April 2006, and the litigation commenced. He informed a trustee handling the Meo estate of all former Meo clients he was working with and files he had taken from the office.

In her ruling on the trade secret claims, Judge A. Susan Peck found that plaintiff Marinos had failed to show that the material allegedly taken was a trade secret under the Connecticut Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The law defines a trade secret as one that is not generally available, is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy. and has an independent economic value derived from that secrecy.

“With respect to the retainer agreement and the personal injury intake checklists, these are standard form documents which do not contain or constitute trade secrets,” Peck’s ruling stated.
The judge also concluded that the personal injury checklist was boilerplate in nature and that there was no independent economic value in or effort to keep secret the client case file management system. Two client case files did not contain trade secret information nor have independent economic value, according to the ruling.

The court also issued judgment in favor of Poirot on separate allegations of breach of the duty of loyalty and computer crimes, finding that the plaintiff had failed to produce required evidence of measurable damages. Judgment was issued for Poirot on a conversion count based on the court’s finding that the claims were aired and decided in prior litigation over fees and were barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

The court also found the doctrine barred civil conspiracy counts against Poirot and Johnson. Separate allegations that they violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act did not survive because the plaintiff failed a required showing of an ascertainable loss.

Marinos was represented in the most recent action by New Haven attorney John R. Williams, who declined to comment for this article. In a notice of appeal, Williams questions whether the judge erred in ruling that proof of actual damages was required to sustain actions for breach of the duty of loyalty and computer crimes and by finding that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient proof to permit any of her claims to be tried. He also will argue that the claims were not barred by the doctrine of res judicata and that proof of an ascertainable loss was not necessary for a claim under the unfair trade practices statute.


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