Caterpillar Logistics Services (UK) Ltd v Huesca de Crean 2011 EWHC 3154

In this case Caterpillar were denied an injunction by the High Court against one of their former employees from using or disclosing confidential information.  Mrs Huesca was employed by Caterpillar to manage its logistics centre which provided logistic services to Quinton.  Her contract contained no restrictive covenants but she had signed a confidentiality agreement.  She resigned in August 2011 to join Quinton and about 3 weeks later Caterpillar wrote to her warning that it was going to take legal proceedings against her.  The letter contained serious allegations against Quinton and sought wide undertakings from Mrs Huesca.  She did not provide those undertakings but agreed not to breach the confidentiality agreement and not be involved in certain activities. 

Caterpillar commenced proceedings against her.  In addition to refusing an injunction, the High Court also declined to order a “barring order” prohibiting Mrs Huesca from being involved in the commercial relationship between Caterpillar and Quinton.  Caterpillar had not provided any direct evidence that Mrs Huesca had acted improperly and its case was based on suspicion.  There are restrictions to what an employer can protect and these were set out in the 1987 Court of Appeal case of Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler.  There were 5 principles of law to which Justice Tugendhat in this case added 3 further principles including proportionality. 

Key point: Injunctive proceedings are notoriously uncertain and any relief sought from and granted by the Court must be no more than is proportionate to the threat to the legitimate interests of the former employer.