Wells Lamont Industry Group LLC v. Mendoza et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 7/31/17.Mailed notice(ca, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
WELLS LAMONT INDUSTRY GROUP
RICHARD MENDOZA and RADIANS,
17 C 1136
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Wells Lamont Industry Group LLC (“Wells Lamont”) has sued
Defendants Richard Mendoza (“Mendoza”) and Radians, Inc. (“Radians”). Against
Mendoza, Wells Lamont alleges violation of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of
2016 (DTSA), 18 U.S.C. § 1836 et seq. (Count I), violation of the Illinois Trade
Secrets Act (ITSA), 765 Ill. Comp. Stat. 1065/1 et seq. (Count II), breach of contract
with regard to a confidentiality agreement (Count III), and breach of contract with
regard to an information technology agreement (Count IV). Against Radians, Wells
Lamont alleges tortious interference with contract with regard to both of its
agreements with Mendoza (Count V). Mendoza has moved to dismiss Count I, and
Radians has moved to dismiss Count V. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’
motions to dismiss   are denied.
Factual Background 1
Wells Lamont is a company that designs, manufactures, and sells industrial
gloves, and its principal place of business is in Illinois. 1st Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 1,
ECF No. 7. Mendoza is an Illinois citizen who was a sales representative for Wells
Lamont from February 2011 until August 12, 2016, when he voluntarily resigned to
take a similar position with Radians. Id. ¶¶ 2, 26. Radians, which is also in the
business of selling industrial gloves, is in direct competition with Wells Lamont,
and its principal place of business is in Tennessee. Id. ¶ 3.
Mendoza was “Director of Sales – Primary Materials” for Wells Lamont from
February 1, 2013, until his resignation. Id. ¶ 10. In this position, some of his
responsibilities included establishing sales goals, developing and executing sales
plans, and performing priority management for sales. Id. ¶ 11. In addition, he was
exposed to confidential information in the course of his employment, such as
product designs and prototypes. Id. ¶ 25.
During the course of his employment, Mendoza signed a confidentiality
agreement that defined “confidential information and trade secrets” as including
“business information such as product costs, vendor and customer lists, . . .
unpublished price lists, . . . and other financial information not yet announced or
Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.
The agreement forbade him from
“communicat[ing] such confidential information or trade secrets to any other person
The following facts are taken from Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint and the
exhibits attached thereto, and they are accepted as true on review of Defendants’ motions to
dismiss. See Roberts v. City of Chi., 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).
[or] firm” or “us[ing] such confidential information or trade secrets . . . for the
benefit of any other person [or] firm.” Id. ¶ 13. Mendoza signed this agreement
most recently on February 18, 2016. Id. ¶ 12. During the course of his employment,
Mendoza also signed an information technology agreement that included a
confidentiality provision forbidding him from disclosing trade secrets for any
purpose other than his official duties. Id. ¶ 16. This agreement was most recently
signed on February 22, 2016. Id. ¶ 15.
In August 2016, Mendoza resigned from Wells Lamont and began working for
Id. ¶ 26.
Both before and after his resignation, he forwarded to his
personal e-mail address confidential information such as customer data, pricing
sheets, and sales reports. Id. ¶ 27. In September 2016, Wells Lamont learned that
Mendoza had reached out to some of his former customers to attempt to convince
them to do business with Radians, so Wells Lamont’s counsel wrote Mendoza a
letter demanding the documents be returned. Id. ¶¶ 29, 30. The letter was also
sent to Radians and informed it of Mendoza’s continuing duties to not disclose or
use any confidential information. Id. ¶ 30; id., Ex. C, at 2. 2 On October 6, 2016,
Wells Lamont received an e-mail from an attorney representing both Mendoza and
Radians, admitting that Mendoza had some of Wells Lamont’s confidential
information in his possession. Id. ¶ 31. The next day, Mendoza returned a signed
affidavit in which he recounted all the information he had forwarded to his personal
Plaintiff’s original complaint included six distinct exhibits, and the amended
complaint attached the entire original complaint with its exhibits as “Exhibit A.” For ease
of reference, the Court will refer to the exhibits as identified in the original complaint.
e-mail address, and he also admitted that he had delivered a hard copy of one of
Wells Lamont’s confidential pricing lists to a Radians employee. Id. ¶ 32; id., Ex. F
While Mendoza worked for Wells Lamont, he maintained a relationship with
Turner Industries (“Turner”) for about three years. Id. ¶ 37. In October 2016, after
he began working for Radians, Mendoza contacted Turner to attempt to divert its
business away from Wells Lamont. Id. In January 2017, Mendoza traveled to
Turner’s office in Texas and “presented replicas of several Wells Lamont Industry
products.” Id. ¶ 38. After Mendoza’s presentation, Turner canceled a meeting it
had previously set with a Wells Lamont salesman. Id. Wells Lamont alleges that
Mendoza has continued to use its confidential information to try to siphon away its
customers. Id. ¶ 41.
To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
(“Rule”) 12(b)(6), 3 a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The
Although Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), their
arguments are on the merits and are therefore interpreted as arising pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6). See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946) (“It is well-settled that the failure to
state a proper cause of action calls for a judgment on the merits and not for a dismissal for
want of jurisdiction.”).
complaint “need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of
the claim and its basis.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must “accept[ ]
as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and draw[ ] all possible inferences in [the
plaintiff’s] favor.” Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.
Mendoza has moved to dismiss Count I of Wells Lamont’s complaint, arguing
that Wells Lamont has not sufficiently alleged that its information constitutes a
trade secret under the DTSA. Mendoza also argues that Wells Lamont’s complaint
fails to sufficiently plead a violation of the DTSA because it fails to allege that Wells
Lamont’s goods were used in or intended for use in interstate commerce, and
Radians repeats this argument in its own motion. 4 Radians has also moved to
dismiss Count V, arguing that Wells Lamont fails to sufficiently allege that Radians
tortiously interfered with Mendoza’s confidentiality agreements.
The Court will
address each of these arguments below.
Count I: Defend Trade Secrets Act
Mendoza argues that Wells Lamont has not sufficiently identified the
information alleged to be a trade secret. For a complaint alleging violation of the
While Count I is not directed against Radians, Radians does so evidently in an
attempt to establish the Court lacks jurisdiction over the state law claim levied against it.
DTSA to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must identify
the purported trade secrets, but it may do so generally to avoid publicly disclosing
the information in its court filings. See Mission Measurement Corp. v. Blackbaud,
Inc., 216 F. Supp. 3d 915, 920–21 (N.D. Ill. 2016) (holding that a complaint was
well-pleaded when it identified the purported trade secrets as including “business
models, . . . business plans, and product development plans”). Here, Wells Lamont
alleges that Mendoza was exposed to confidential information such as “customer
account information, product summaries, pricing sheets, product prototypes,
product designs, and detailed sales reports,” FAC ¶ 25, and that he took
“substantial amounts” of this information with him to Radians once he resigned
from Wells Lamont, id. ¶ 27. These allegations are sufficient to state a DTSA claim.
E.g., SleekEZ, LLC v. Horton, CV 16-09-BLG-SPW-TJC, 2017 WL 190695, at *4 (D.
Mont. Apr. 21, 2017) (holding that the allegations were adequate when the
complaint generally described the information as its “industry contacts and
customers and its marketing and business strategies”); Aggreko, LLC v. Barreto,
No. 1:16-CV-353, 2017 WL 963170, at *2 (D. N.D. Mar. 13, 2017) (holding that a
complaint’s allegations were adequate when they described the trade secrets as
“including customer lists and information regarding [the plaintiff’s] operations,
customers, business proposals, pricing strategy, client preference and history, and
proprietary pricing models”). 5
Because Wells Lamont has generally identified
To the extent Mendoza argues that Wells Lamont’s customer identities and business
plans cannot constitute trade secrets, this argument fails at the motion to dismiss stage.
Mission Measurement, 216 F. Supp. 3d at 921; see also Aggreko, 2017 WL 963170, at *2.
which trade secrets have been misappropriated, its allegations are sufficient to
survive a motion to dismiss. 6
Defendants also argue that Wells Lamont failed to allege that its goods were
used in or intended for use in interstate commerce. Because the DTSA was enacted
only recently, there is limited case law relating to whether pleading this specific
aspect of a DTSA claim is required. But assuming without deciding that it is, 7
Wells Lamont’s allegations are sufficient for the Court to reasonably infer that
Wells Lamont’s goods were used in or intended for use in interstate commerce.
The complaint alleges that “[d]uring Mendoza’s employment with Wells
Lamont[,] Mendoza maintained a roughly three-year relationship with Turner.”
FAC ¶ 37. Subsequently, while Mendoza was a Radians employee, he traveled to
Texas for a meeting at Turner’s regional office. Id. ¶ 38. At this meeting, Mendoza
presented replicas of Wells Lamont products, and Turner then proceeded to cancel a
meeting that it had already scheduled with a Wells Lamont salesman. Id. Because
Turner’s regional office in Texas had a previously arranged meeting with Wells
The statutory definition of a trade secret includes the two additional elements of
whether the plaintiff reasonably attempted to maintain the information’s secrecy and
whether the information has independent economic value by not being readily known or
ascertainable. 18 U.S.C. § 1839(3). Mendoza does not contest these aspects of Wells
Lamont’s claim, and Plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences at this preliminary
Defendants have not provided any support for their assertion that such pleading is
required. In the only case the Court has found that addresses this point in the context of
the DTSA, a federal district court in Delaware dismissed a complaint that “fail[ed] to allege
any nexus between interstate or foreign commerce and the [products or services at issue].”
Hydrogen Master Rights, Ltd. v. Weston, No. 16-474-RGA, 2017 WL 78582, at *10 (D. Del.
Feb. 6, 2017). Here, however, for the reasons that follow, dismissal is not warranted.
Lamont, the Court can reasonably infer that Wells Lamont was also doing business
(or intended to do business) with Turner in Texas. And, as Wells Lamont is based
in Illinois, the Court can also infer that its goods were intended to cross state lines
and thus intended for use in interstate commerce.
Additionally, Wells Lamont’s response briefs represent that its goods were
either used in or intended for use in interstate commerce.
Pl.’s Resp. Def.
Mendoza’s Mot. Dismiss at 9 n.2, ECF No. 23; Pl.’s Resp. Def. Radians’s Mot.
Dismiss at 11 n.4, ECF No. 24. The Seventh Circuit has held that “facts alleged by
a plaintiff in a brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss may be considered when
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint so long as they are consistent [with] the
allegations in the complaint.” Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 311 (7th Cir. 2015)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Here, Wells Lamont’s assertions
that its goods were used or intended for use in interstate commerce are consistent
with the allegations in its complaint. Thus, dismissing Wells Lamont’s DTSA claim
and granting leave to amend to include this fact would be an inefficient use of the
Court’s and the parties’ time and resources. For the foregoing reasons, Mendoza’s
motion to dismiss Count I is denied. 8
Mendoza’s reply brief mentions for the first time that Mendoza and Radians deny
that either party misappropriated Wells Lamont’s trade secrets. Mendoza’s Reply 1–3, ECF
No. 25. The Court is not obligated to address this argument because “the district court is
entitled to find that an argument raised for the first time in a reply brief is forfeited.”
Narducci v. Moore, 572 F.3d 313, 324 (7th Cir. 2009). Even if this argument had been
raised properly, however, it would fail. The DTSA defines misappropriation as disclosure or
use of a trade secret by “a person who . . . knew or had reason to know that the knowledge
of the trade secret was acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain the
secrecy of the trade secret.” 18 U.S.C. § 1839(5)(B)(ii)(II). Here, Mendoza’s signed
confidentiality agreement created a contractual duty to maintain secrecy, and the
Count V: Tortious Interference with Contract
Radians also argues that Wells Lamont has failed to adequately allege that
Radians induced Mendoza to breach his contracts with Wells Lamont.
Illinois law, 9 a claim for tortious interference with contract comprises five elements:
“(1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract; (2) the defendant’s awareness
of the contractual relation; (3) the defendant’s intentional and unjustified
inducement of breach of the contract; (4) a subsequent breach by the other
contracting party caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct; and (5) damages
resulting from the breach.” Cromeens, Holloman, Sibert, Inc. v. AB Volvo, 349 F.3d
376, 398 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Hi-Tek Consulting Servs., Inc. v. Bar–Nahum, 578
N.E.2d 993, 997 (Ill. App. Ct. 1991)). Here, two elements are at issue: intentional
inducement of breach, and a breach caused by that inducement. 10
Turning first to intentional inducement, Radians argues that its knowledge
of Mendoza’s confidentiality agreement is insufficient to establish liability because
complaint alleges that Mendoza disclosed and used Wells Lamont’s trade secrets. FAC
¶¶ 12–13, 40–41. Thus, the complaint sufficiently alleges that Defendants misappropriated
the information. Cf. Molon Motor & Coil Corp. v. Nidec Motor Corp., No. 16 C 03545, 2017
WL 1954531, at *4–5 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2017) (holding that the defendant’s employment
agreement imposed a duty to maintain secrecy when the agreement stated that all products
developed by the plaintiff-employer were the plaintiff’s “sole and exclusive property”).
The Court applies Illinois law, i.e., the law of the forum state, because the parties do
not raise an issue as to what law applies. Gonzalez v. Volvo of Am. Corp., 752 F.2d 295, 299
(7th Cir. 1985) (“Where parties fail to raise a possible conflict of substantive laws, the better
rule . . . is that the substantive law of the forum controls.”).
Radians’s motion states that it “does not concede that the Plaintiff has properly
pleaded any of the [five] elements,” but these are the only two addressed by the motion.
Def. Radians’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 5, ECF No. 20. They are therefore the only two
that will be addressed. See Sanchez v. City of Chi., 700 F.3d 919, 934 n.4 (7th Cir. 2012)
(stating that undeveloped arguments are waived).
its knowledge does not automatically imply intentional inducement.
Mem. at 4. For its part, Wells Lamont contends that it has sufficiently alleged that
Radians intentionally interfered with its contracts by hiring Mendoza. Resp. Def.
Radians at 4; see FAC ¶ 80. A complaint that alleges the interferor had knowledge
of a contract and then placed a contracting party in a position to breach sufficiently
pleads intentional inducement. Maximum Indep. Brokerage, LLC v. Smith, 218 F.
Supp. 3d 630, 641 (N.D. Ill. 2016) (holding that defendant-employers induced a
breach when they were aware of the confidentiality agreements in question but
employed the individuals anyway and “allow[ed] [them] to use potentially
confidential information to recruit customers”). Additionally, it is sufficient to plead
as a general matter that the interferor’s inducement was intentional. Compare
Maximum, 218 F. Supp. 3d at 640–41 (holding that the allegation that the
defendant “interfered with [the plaintiff’s] rights” was sufficient to survive a motion
to dismiss), with Owens Trophies, Inc. v. Bluestone Design & Creations, Inc., No. 12
C 7670, 2014 WL 126082, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 7, 2017) (holding that alleging a
defendant’s conduct was “wrongful” was too conclusory); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b)
(“Malice, intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a person’s mind may be alleged
Here, the complaint states that Radians “intentionally interfered with Wells
Lamont[’s] rights . . . by knowingly employing or otherwise associating with
Mendoza” and “induced Mendoza to breach his contractual obligations.” FAC ¶ 80.
The complaint further states that Radians was aware of Wells Lamont’s
confidentiality agreements with Mendoza.
FAC ¶ 30; id., Ex. C.
September 2016, Wells Lamont’s counsel wrote to Defendants to inform them of
Mendoza’s “ongoing obligations” under the confidentiality agreements. Id., Ex. C,
at 2. Wells Lamont then received a response from Defendants’ counsel in October
2016, acknowledging receipt of the letter on behalf of both parties. Id. ¶ 31; id.,
Ex. D. Following receipt of this response, Mendoza traveled to Texas to meet with
Turner in January 2017.
Id. ¶ 38.
Thus, accepting these allegations as true,
Radians must have known of Mendoza’s confidentiality agreements at the time of
his meeting with Turner. Radians’s sending Mendoza to recruit a client he had
worked with at Wells Lamont therefore suffices to allege intentional inducement.
Radians also argues that Wells Lamont does not adequately allege Radians’s
inducement caused the breach. But under the federal pleading standard, plaintiff
need do no more than claim that the defendant interfered with the contract at issue
by soliciting the third party to breach and that the breach actually occurred. See,
e.g., MetroPCS v. Devor, 215 F. Supp. 3d 626, 637 (N.D. Ill. 2016); see also
Maximum, 218 F. Supp. 3d at 641. Here, Wells Lamont claims that Radians hired
Mendoza and then sent him to a meeting in Texas with some of Wells Lamont’s
products. FAC ¶¶ 26, 38. Wells Lamont also alleges that Mendoza breached both of
the confidentiality agreements, id. ¶¶ 71, 75, and that Radians induced those
breaches, id. ¶ 80. In sum, because the complaint alleges that Radians’s sending
Mendoza to Texas caused him to breach his agreements, the element of causation is
adequately pleaded. Radians’s motion to dismiss Count V is therefore denied. 11
For the reasons stated herein, Defendants’ motions to dismiss   are
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
Radians cursorily mentions that it is “entitled” to compete with Wells Lamont, and
Wells Lamont’s response assumes that Radians is claiming the competitor’s privilege as an
affirmative defense. See Radians’s Mem. at 5; Resp. Def. Radians at 6. First, plaintiffs are
not required to “anticipate or attempt to defuse potential defenses” in their complaints. Doe
v. Smith, 429 F.3d 706, 709 (7th Cir. 2005). Additionally, under Illinois law, the
competitor’s privilege applies only to claims of tortious interference with prospective
economic advantage and so would be inapplicable here, where Wells Lamont claims tortious
interference with an existing contract. Belden Corp. v. InterNorth, Inc., 413 N.E.2d 98, 101
(Ill. App. Ct. 1980).
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