Barbara Gayle, Court Writer
John Barnes, who was accused by his former employer of poaching clients, has been cleared by the Supreme Court.
Allied Protection Limited had accused its former managing director of soliciting its clients for a rival security company known as Securipro Limited, days after he resigned. Barnes' brother Winston Barnes is the principal of Securi Pro.
But Justice Ingrid Mangatal ruled that there was nothing in the evidence showing Barnes had solicited Allied's clients.
Allied claimed that it lost contracts to Securipro between April 2011 and March 2012 and sued Barnes for J$31.7 million in special damages.
The former MD was accused of trying to poach both clients as well as guards employed by Allied.
The company contended Barnes had agreed not to solicit or attempt to obtain any of its contracts, whether directly or indirectly, within 12 months of his resignation, spanning the period April 1, 2011 to May 1, 2012.
Barnes himself had sued Donald Williams, chairman and majority shareholder of Allied, for J$2 million owed to him after he sold his shares in Allied.
Allied claimed in its lawsuit that there was an agreement for the withholding of the J$2 million as protection from loss of accounts over the 12 months following Barnes' resignation.
In his defence, Barnes said there was no separation agreement between himself and Allied. He said there was only an agreement between Williams and himself for the purchase of his shares for J$10 million, but no agreement for the withholding of J$2 million from the sale of the shares.
Justice Mangatal ruled that while Williams had, in fact, secured Barnes' oral agreement or assurance that he would not solicit or attempt to obtain any of Allied's contracts for the 12-month period, there was "no agreement that Mr Barnes would not, during that period, return to work in the security industry," she said.
She ruled that the non-solicitation agreement did not preclude Barnes from setting up a rival company or seeking clients for himself.
"It was suitably limited in scope and time, in so far as it simply sought to restrict Mr Barnes from soliciting the clients of Allied for a period of 12 months. It is, therefore, in my view enforceable," Justice Mangatal said.
"However, I do not find anything in the evidence to suggest that Mr Barnes approached, overtly or covertly, any of the persons who left Allied and joined Securipro. Consequently, I cannot find that Mr Barnes was guilty of soliciting Allied's clients," Mangatal ruled.
She also ruled that Williams had no proper basis on which to withhold the Allied share sale proceeds owed to Barnes.
Allied was ordered to pay Barnes' legal costs, and Williams to pay over the J$2 million with interest at the rate of six per cent from March 2011 to July 2013.
The case was heard in Febraury and July. Barnes was represented by attorneys Bert Samuels and Roxanne Mars, while Allied's lawyer was Symone Mayhew.