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Injunction Prohibiting “Routine” Disposal of Business Records Unrelated to Dispute Is Overbroad

Posted in CASE SUMMARIES

Computek Computer & Office Supplies, Inc. v. Walton, 2005 WL 352036 (Tex.App. Feb. 15, 2005)

Plaintiff sued competing business and its owner, alleging that owner used trade secrets obtained during his employment with plaintiff to form the competing company. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiff and awarded it actual and exemplary damages. In addition, the trial court entered a permanent injunction against defendant which enjoined defendant from, among other things, “[r]emoving or destroying any files, or copies of files, including but not limited to Defendants’ computer or computer files.”

Defendant appealed, arguing that the permanent injunction was “overbroad” because it prevented lawful activities. Specifically, defendant argued that the injunction prevented it from removing or destroying any files on its computers, including those that were unrelated to plaintiff or the litigation. Defendant argued that it had the legal right to dispose of its own records or files that were “routine,” such as deleting computer files no longer in use or throwing away paper records of old sales leads. In response, plaintiff argued that the context of the injunction shows clearly that the subject paragraph referred only to files specifically related to plaintiff.

The court noted that the other paragraphs of the injunction were quite detailed, but that the subject paragraph referred to defendant’s internal procedures, without any limit. The court found that the injunction enjoined activities the defendant had a legal right to perform, such as deleting records and files that have nothing to do with plaintiff, and concluded that the injunction was too broad.

Accordingly, the court modified the paragraph to read: “Removing or destroying any files, or copies of files, including but not limited to Defendants’ computer or computer files, relating to [plaintiff].”