Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recent Decisions of Interest (No. 4)

This week's installment focuses on just one decision - the first pronouncement from the Appellate Court of Illinois following the Supreme Court's decision in Reliable Fire Equipment Co. v. Arredondo last year.

Of course, the decision was unpublished - an annoying trend in the Appellate Court. The Second District reversed and remanded a defense judgment on the grounds that the circuit court did not correctly apply Reliable Fire and instead analyzed the case under an outdated framework which that case rejects.

The case involved a common fact pattern. Hair stylist signs non-compete with a defined geographic territory. Hair stylist leaves. Hair stylist breaches by joining salon in prohibited territory. Jilted employer sues. Little more in the way of factual background is needed, except that the circuit court applied the right test then existing at the time of its judgment.

On appeal, the Second District held that Reliable Fire does indeed apply to a case which was decided under the prior regime but which was appealed during the time Reliable Fire was issued. The primary rationale, from what I can tell, is that Reliable Fire - in truth- did not change anything. It clarified a standard that long existed but which appellate courts got in the habit of misapplying.

So in that regard, the Appellate Court followed the general rule that a court opinion applies retroactively, as well as prospectively. None of the exceptions to this rule fit, primarily because nothing in Reliable Fire indicated it should apply prospectively only. Indeed, that would be illogical since the Supreme Court, in its own mind, really did nothing to change the law but only rejected the appellate courts' gloss on the applicable non-compete test.

Consistent with Reliable Fire, the circuit court on remand did not need to try the case over but could, in its discretion, allow for additional submissions and briefs necessary to address the issues and develop an appropriate record for decision.


Court: Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District
Opinion Date: 2/3/12
Cite: Hafferkamp v. Llorca, 2011 IL App (2d) 100353U
Favors: Employer
Law: Illinois

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