Contracts that restrict or prohibit competition during or after the term of employment are enforceable, “so long as such contracts are reasonable in time, area, and line of business…” Florida Statute § 542.335. A non-compete provision that prohibits a doctor from seeing any patients from medical practice that formerly employed him/her, is not overbroad, provided that the geographic area of the limitation is reasonable. Peter Mavrick is a Miami non-compete lawyer and employment litigation lawyer who has significant experience in non-compete litigation, including injunction proceedings.
In Supinski v. Omni Healthcare, P.A., 853 So. 2d 526 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) Dr. Edward Supinski (“Dr. Supinski”) was recruited by Omni Healthcare, P.A. (“Omni”) for the company’s medical practice in Brevard County, Florida. Dr. Supinski was relocated from Ohio to Florida for the position with Omni. Omni was a physician owned multi-specialty practice operating in central and southern Brevard County, and the Melbourne area. Omni and Dr. Supinski negotiated an employment agreement (“contract”) with a two-year duration, which automatically renewed unless terminated by either party 180 days before the termination date. The contract contained a non-compete provision that barred Dr. Supinski from competing with Omni within a ten-mile radius of Omni’s offices in Brevard County, for two years after termination of his employment. The contract also contained a non-solicitation provision that barred Dr. Supinski from soliciting Omni’s patients and employees.
Omni assisted Dr. Supinski in becoming credentialed by various managed care organizations, helped him gain staff privileges at hospitals, hired his staff, advertised his practice, and aided him in establishing a patient base. About one month before the end of the initial two-year term of the contract, Dr. Supinski sent Omni a letter stating that he would not renew his employment agreement. Immediately after the termination of his employment with Omni, Dr. Supinski opened his new practice four miles from the Omni office where he previously worked. Omni filed a lawsuit against Dr. Supinski for breach of contract, failure to provide the minimum notice of non-renewal, and violation of the non-compete provision. Omni sought an injunction against Dr. Supinski, pursuant to Florida Statute § 542.335.
After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the temporary injunction against Dr. Supinski.
The trial court found that the non-compete provision was supported by legitimate business interests connected to a specific geographic location and a specific marketing area. The trial court also found that the duration of the non-compete provision was reasonable. The evidence showed the Dr. Supinski breached the agreement in several ways including the geographic restriction and notice requirements.
Several months after the injunction was entered, Dr. Supinski moved for an emergency modification of the temporary injunction. Dr. Supinski contended, among other things, that the injunction was overbroad because it prohibited him from opening an office within ten miles of an Omni office, and because the injunction enjoined him from treating all patients, not just those he treated at Omni. The trial court denied Dr. Supinski’s motion to modify the injunction. Dr. Supinski filed an appeal.
Dr. Supinski heavily relied on University of Florida, Bd. of Trustees v. Sanal, 837 So.2d 512 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003) in which the lower court denied University of Florida’s (“University”) request for temporary injunctive relief because the University failed to establish that: 1) it would suffer irreparable injury, and 2) it had a legitimate business interest in its “prospective patient base”, which it defined to include all persons residing within a 50 mile radius of its Jacksonville location.
The appellate court was not persuaded by Sanal because it found there was substantial competent evidence in the record that Omni had legitimate business interests to protect and that the temporary injunction was necessary to protect such interests. The appellate court held that Omni established that Dr. Supinski interfered with “substantial relationships with prospective….patients” within the meaning of Florida Statute § 542.335. Supinski v. Omni Healthcare, P.A. further held that the non-compete and non-solicitation provisions were not overbroad because 40% of Dr. Supinski’s clientele were patients he treated at Omni and his new office was well within the prescribed area.
Dr. Supinski also contended that the trial court erred in prohibiting him from opening an office within 10 miles of each Omni facility, rather than 10 miles of the office he actually worked in. The appellate court held that this argument was unpersuasive because the offices were not widespread, but rather were in a confined area of southern Brevard County. The appellate court reasoned that Dr. Supinsky was free to work in the northern part of the county or any other county. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order denying Dr. Supinski’s motion to modify the temporary injunction.
Peter Mavrick is a Miami non-compete attorney and employment litigation attorney. This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.