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The Suburbanite
  • Howden Buffalo Inc. files lawsuit against former employee

  • Howden Buffalo Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Sean M. LeBarron, a former employee at its New Philadelphia plant, alleging that he stole company secrets and took a job with a major competitor.

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  • Howden Buffalo Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Sean M. LeBarron, a former employee at its New Philadelphia plant, alleging that he stole company secrets and took a job with a major competitor.
    The lawsuit claims breach of contract and breach of duty of loyalty. It was filed Wednesday in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court and asks for a jury trial.
    A separate filing, seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent LeBarron from continuing to work for TLT-Babcock Inc., use or disclose trade secrets or solicit any of Howden-Buffalo’s customers, was granted by Judge Edward O’Farrell. A hearing will be scheduled prior to the order’s expiration March 2.
    LeBarron, whose address is listed as Forestville, N.Y., left Howden Jan. 16 to work for Babcock, one of Howden’s two largest and direct primary competitors, according to the lawsuit. He had signed a non-competition and confidentiality agreement with Howden on Oct. 30, 2006, and was barred from obtaining a job with 20 identified competitors, including Babcock, or soliciting Howden customers for one year after leaving Howden, which is headquartered at Camden, S.C.
    He worked at Howden’s Buffalo, N.Y., facility as a test engineer, receiving specialized training, the lawsuit states. He scheduled a visit and tour of the state-of-the-art-facility at New Philadelphia in December 2008, “just weeks before providing Howden with his resignation notice.”
    Howden did not know that he was accepting Babcock’s offer to become manager of testing services when he scheduled the tour, the lawsuit states.
    “Howden’s specialized testing equipment and programs and testing facility provide Howden a significant competitive advantage over its competitors, and LeBarron was hired by Babcock to unfairly compete by utilizing confidential and proprietary testing-related knowledge and information that LeBarron obtained during his employment with Howden,” according to the lawsuit. “This action seeks damages and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief for LeBarron’s breach of the non-competition agreement and breach of his duty of loyalty. These breaches are causing irreparable harm to Howden due to unfair competition and the use and disclosure of Howden’s confidential, proprietary business information.”
    Howden manufactures, sells and services large industrial fans and other rotating equipment for use in coal fire plants, nuclear power plants and other large utility facilities throughout North America.
    The lawsuit adds that although LeBarron only recently started working for Babcock, he already has “ordered the exact same specialized, computerized testing equipment from the exact same vendor” used by Howden when he was an employee.
    Howden has notified Babcock and LeBarron about the non-competition agreement and asked that he be terminated, but that has been refused, according to the lawsuit.