An Indiana court found that a former Maxi-Blast Inc. salesman breached a noncompete clause in his employment contract with the company when he started up a Michigan business that sells blast media products, used for cleaning molds and screws. Last month Maxi-Blast filed a complaint to register the Indiana judgment in the state of Michigan, which will allow it to collect more than $30,000 from defendants Norbert Drust and his firm, ReNu Plastics Inc. of Sturgis, Mich.
St. Joseph (County) Superior Court in South Bend, Ind., made the ruling April 11 based on charges Maxi-Blast leveled at Drust in a lawsuit it filed in November 1994.
Maxi-Blast of South Bend, which sells the nonabrasive plastic blast media and equipment, had sales of more than $10 million last year. ReNu recycles plastic blast cleaning media so firms can reuse it, but does not make or sell the product, Drust said.
But the St. Joseph court determined that Drust violated terms of a noncompete clause in his Maxi-Blast employment contract and interfered with profit Maxi-Blast lost on sales of its plastic cleaning media between April 22, 1994, when Drust founded ReNu, and Nov. 3, 1995, when the noncompete agreement expired.
In addition, the court charged that Drust ``crossed the line between permissible and prohibited conduct,'' by bringing a prospective business partner, Dean L. Greve, to tour Maxi-Blast's South Bend plant while he was still working for the company, and using a customer list, pricing information and other sensitive Maxi-Blast records to prepare a written plan for launching his own business.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development ruled that Drust, who worked for Maxi-Blast for more than four years, was discharged without just cause under the state's Employ-ment and Training Services Act in November 1993, a finding that Maxi-Blast did not appeal.
In a recent telephone interview, Drust continued to insist the allegations against him were unfounded, and said he was unaware the St. Joseph court had made a ruling on the case.