United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
FCA U.S. LLC, Plaintiff,
PATREA BULLOCK, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER (DKT. 2)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff FCA U.S. LLC's
(“FCA”) motion for a temporary restraining order
(Dkt. 2). The motion has been fully briefed - including
several supplemental filings from both parties - and a
hearing was held on January 5, 2018. For the reasons that
follow, the Court denies the motion.
Patrea Bullock is an attorney who previously worked for two
law firms in California, Universal & Shannon, LLP
(“U&S”) (August 2016 - May 2017) and Gates,
O'Doherty, Gonter & Guy LLP (“GOGG”)
(June 2017 - October 2017). Compl. ¶¶ 8, 20 (Dkt.
1). FCA was a client of both U&S and GOGG, and during
Bullock's time at these law firms, she worked on dozens
of breach of warranty cases for FCA. Id.
¶¶ 9, 21. FCA alleges that she “personally
determined and advised FCA U.S. about how to respond
regarding particular claims, evaluated the defenses available
to FCA US, developed overall defense strategy, and engaged in
regular contact with FCA U.S. regarding the defenses and
strategies of various cases.” Id. ¶ 11.
She participated in all aspects of these breach of warranty
cases, including depositions, id. ¶¶ 14,
23; drafting responses and objections in discovery,
¶¶ 15, 25; and settlement discussions, ¶¶
17, 22. In April 2017, Bullock attended a training program
conducted by FCA's inside and outside counsel, and signed
a confidentiality agreement (the “Confidentiality
Agreement”) regarding certain client confidential
information learned about FCA. Id. ¶ 19; Def.
Supp. Br. at 3 (Dkt. 29); see also Confidentiality
Agreement, Ex. A to Pl. Reply (Dkt. 17-2). Bullock was privy
to “privileged, confidential, and/or sensitive
information.” Id. ¶ 15.
stopped working for GOGG in October 2017 and opened her own
practice. Id. ¶ 30. She advertised herself as
an “expert lemon law attorney serving Northern
California.” See Website Print-out, Ex. B to
Pl. Reply (Dkt. 17-3). Prior to leaving GOGG, Bullock
apparently transferred data from her work computer to a USB
device, including folders labeled, “Cases, ”
“Helpful Info, ” “Lemon Law Cases, ”
“My Business, ” and “Releases.”
See Declaration of Michael Bandemer ¶ 8f (Dkt.
November 20, 2017, Bullock filed a California lawsuit against
FCA, alleging breach of warranty on behalf of an owner of an
FCA-manufactured vehicle, Brown v. FCA U.S. LLC, No.
34-2017-00222086 (Super. Ct. of Cal., Sacramento).
Id. ¶ 31. FCA then filed the instant complaint,
alleging claims for breach of contract, misappropriation of
trade secrets, violation of federal trade secret laws, breach
of fiduciary duty, and injunctive relief. Since then, Bullock
has filed at least two other breach of warranty lawsuits
against FCA in California. See Pl. Supp. Br. (Dkt.
34) (noting Arias v. FCA US, LLC, No. FCS050161
(Super Ct. of Cal., Fairfield)); Pl. Supp. Notice (Dkt. 37)
(noting Lewis v. FCA U.S. LLC, No. CV-18-240 (Super.
Ct. of Cal., Yolo)).
filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, requesting
that the Court enjoin Bullock from filing breach of warranty
lawsuits against FCA, destroying any records or documents in
her possession which were obtained from FCA which relate to
breach of warranty cases, and divulging any of FCA's
confidential or proprietary information, among other
requests. Pl. Mot. for TRO at 15-16 (Dkt. 2).
determine whether to grant a preliminary injunction or
temporary restraining order, a district court must consider:
(i) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on
the merits; (ii) whether the movant would suffer irreparable
injury without the injunction; (iii) whether issuance of the
injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and (iv)
whether the public interest would be served by the issuance
of the injunction. Baker v. Adams Cty./Ohio Valley Sch.
Bd., 310 F.3d 927, 928 (6th Cir. 2002). These four
factors “are factors to be balanced, not prerequisites
that must be met.” Hamad v. Woodcrest Condo.
Ass'n, 328 F.3d 224, 230 (6th Cir. 2003).
Likelihood of success on the merits
argues that it has shown a strong likelihood of success on
the merits, because Bullock has breached her fiduciary
duties, misappropriated FCA's trade secrets, breached the
Confidentiality Agreement, or will do so in the future. Pl.
Mot. at 10. Bullock contends that FCA has failed to show that
Bullock has learned any non-public information that could not
be gained simply by working opposite FCA's defense
attorneys. Def. Resp. to Supp. Br. at 3-4 (Dkt. 33).
Court finds that FCA has not, at this stage, shown a strong
likelihood of success on the merits. FCA claims that Bullock
has breached the fiduciary duties owed to FCA by representing
the Browns and other plaintiffs. It is true that the law
presumes that where former and current representations are
substantially related, information learned from the client in
the former representation will be used in the later
representation. See, e.g., In re Marks
& Goergens, Inc., 199 B.R. 922, 925 (E.D.
Mich. 1996) (if a substantial relationship exists between an
attorney's former and present representations, “a
presumption is created that the attorney will use information
received from the former client in the ethical obligation to
vigorously represent the present client, thus violating the
ethical obligations of loyalty and confidence”).
However, this presumption only obtains where the
representations are substantially related.
points out that Bullock represented FCA in at least two
breach of warranty actions involving Dodge Darts, the vehicle
at issue in Brown, Pl. Supp. Br. at 4-5 (Dkt. 29);
Jeep Grand Cherokees, the vehicle at issue in Arias,
Pl. Supp. Br. at 1-2 (Dkt. 34); and at least six cases
involving a Chrysler 200, the vehicle at issue in
Lewis, Pl. Supp. Notice at 1 (Dkt. 37). FCA has also
provided the complaints from Bullock's current
representations, and the complaints from cases that Bullock
worked on while representing FCA.
it offers no more than conclusory allegations that, because
these cases involved the same vehicles, Bullock must be using
confidential information in her current representations. The
complaints themselves consist largely of boilerplate language
and, at any rate, do not shed light on what is truly at issue
in each case. Without more, this Court will not conclude at
this stage that Bullock's former and current
representations are substantially related - particularly
where the California judges in each of these cases ...