Texas Non-Compete Law: Can Duration of Non-Compete Agreements be “Equitably Extended”?
In a recent Texas case involving a restrictive covenant, the plaintiff contended that the duration of the non-compete covenant should be judicially extended beyond the agreement’s normal expiration date. In that case, the seller of a dance studio entered into an agreement in which she promised not to compete with the buyer. As is true in most states, non-compete covenants contained in buy-sell agreements are more enforceable than those contained in employment agreements. The covenant in this case was for five years, and the geographical scope consisted of a 50-mile radius around Waco.
The buyer subsequently sued the seller, contending that the latter was in breach of the non-compete agreement. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and an appeal was taken.
On appeal, the seller contended that the trial court erred in holding that the ending date of the covenant not to compete was five years from the date of judgment (as opposed to five years from when the non-compete agreement was signed). The buyer responded that the trial court was right to “equitably extend” the duration of the covenant because of the seller’s “continuous and persistent” violations of the covenant.
The evidence for the alleged “continuous and persistent” violation was as follows:
The Sale and Purchase Agreement was signed on February 27, 2004. Lezley did not begin working for Unity Dance and the Bratchers until July 11, 2005. On August 31, 2005, the trial court temporarily enjoined Lezley from either directly or indirectly soliciting or encouraging any current and/or potential students of Holley‘s dance studio, Jenni Holley Dance Designs, to become either her student or the student of any other dance company or teacher within 50 miles of Holley‘s dance studio. She was not specifically enjoined from teaching dance. Unity Dance and Bill and Donna Bratcher were enjoined from either directly or indirectly using Lezley’s name in their advertising. They were also enjoined from soliciting or encouraging by direct contact any persons known by them to be current customers of Holley‘s dance studio as long as Lezley was working at Unity Dance. There is no indication in the record that Lezley, Unity Dance, or the Bratchers violated this temporary injunction.
Based upon these facts, the court of appeals held that the trial court erred in equitably extending the non-compete covenant. However, the court also stated, “We do not hold that a covenant not to compete cannot be equitably extended, but hold that the record does not support Holley’s argument that the violations of the covenant, if any, were `continuous and persistent.’”
Farmer v. Holley, 237 S.W.3d 758 (Tex. App.–Waco 2007), review denied.