may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Como Gas Sales, Inc.,
Jeffrey Downs, et al.,
Filed April 27, 1999
St. Louis County District Court
File No. C498601925
Thomas F. Andrew, Brown, Andrew, Signorelli & Zallar, 300 Alworth Building, 306 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.
Como Gas Sales, Inc. appeals the district court's order denying the request for an injunction against a former employee, respondent Jeffrey Downs, for breach of a covenant not to compete. We affirm.
Downs worked for Como Gas from May 1993 until April 1998. Before he was hired, Downs was told he would be expected to sign a non-compete agreement effective in the Duluth area for two years following his employment with Como Gas. Downs began work on May 24, 1993, and he signed the non-compete agreement that day. As a propane plant manager, Downs did not solicit customers but installed and serviced propane tanks.
Como Gas terminated Downs in April 1998. Downs began working for respondent Curtis Oil Company, a major competitor of Como Gas, as a propane sales manager on June 9, 1998. His job duties are the same as they were with Como Gas. Como Gas brought an action against both Downs and Curtis Oil, seeking a temporary injunction to stop Downs from working for Curtis Oil. The district court denied the injunction and Como Gas appeals.
The granting of an injunction generally rests within the sound discretion of the trial court, and its action will not be disturbed on appeal unless, based upon the whole record, it appears that there has been an abuse of such discretion.
Cherne Indus., Inc. v. Grounds & Assocs., Inc., 278 N.W.2d 81, 91 (Minn. 1979) (emphasis added). This court views "the facts alleged in the pleading and affidavits as favorably as possible to the party who prevailed below." Id. A trial court's findings regarding entitlement to injunctive relief will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. LaValle v. Kulkay, 277 N.W.2d 400, 402 (Minn. 1979).
When a court decides whether to issue a temporary injunction before a complete trial on the merits, the court should only grant one when it is clear that the requesting party will be irreparably injured before a trial on the merits is held. Miller v. Foley, 317 N.W.2d 710, 712 (Minn. 1982).
The district court applied the "Dahlberg factors" and found that Como Gas suffered no irreparable injury from Downs's employment with Curtis Oil. See Dahlberg Bros., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 272 Minn. 264, 274-75, 137 N.W.2d 314, 321-22 (1965) (listing factors). One important factor for the court to consider is the harm to the parties. Como Gas needed to show irreparable harm to obtain the injunction. Yager v. Thompson, 352 N.W.2d 71, 75 (Minn. App. 1984).
In Miller, the Minnesota Supreme Court described "irreparable" as follows:
[m]ere injuries, however substantial, in terms of money, time and energy necessarily expended in the absence of a stay, are not enough. The possibility that adequate compensatory or other corrective relief will be available at a later date, in the ordinary course of litigation, weighs heavily against a claim of irreparable harm.
Miller, 317 N.W.2d at 713 (quoting Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90, 94 S. Ct. 937, 952 (1974)). The district court relied on precedent denying an injunction where the claimant relied primarily on speculation and conjecture to show irreparable harm. Hollenkamp v. Peters, 358 N.W.2d 108, 112 (Minn. App. 1984). Because Como Gas could not show a causal connection between Curtis Oil's employment of Downs and any perceived loss of business, the district court found that Como Gas did not show irreparable harm. This finding is supported by evidence and is not clearly erroneous.
We need not address Como Gas's other challenges to the district court's findings. The failure to show irreparable harm is, by itself, sufficient ground to deny a preliminary injunction. Morse v. City of Waterville, 458 N.W.2d 728, 729 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1990); Gelco Corp. v. Coniston Partners, 811 F.2d 414, 418 (8th Cir. 1984).