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Appeals court affirms USI win over noncompete agreement


A Pennsylvania state appeals court has affirmed a 2020 ruling in which a lower court awarded USI Insurance Services LLC $1.1 million in litigation over a former employee’s alleged failure to honor his noncompete agreement.

USI had charged that Eric M. Frieman, a former employee of Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc., which USI acquired in 2017, violated his nonsolicitation and noncompete agreement when he left Wells Fargo for Baltimore-based RCM&D Self-Insured Services Inc., which conducts business as SISCO, and then solicited business from 18 Wells Fargo clients, according to court papers in USIA Services et al. v. Eric M. Frieman and RCDM&D Self-insured Services Co., Inc.

Mr. Frieman, who was employed by Wells Fargo as an employee benefits producer from 2008, signed a contract with nonsolicitation and noncompete provisions in 2010 and left the broker to join RCM&D in 2016, where he then allegedly solicited 18 clients with whom he had worked at Wells Fargo.

According to the lower court ruling, Mr. Frieman had told his prospective employers his signature on the noncompete agreement had been forged.

Both sides of the dispute appealed on multiple counts. USI did so on issues including the lower court’s finding that RCM&D had not interfered with USI’s nonsolicitation contract.

The appeals court said in its ruling Wednesday that “USI failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that RCM&D acted with the specific purpose of causing harm to USI.”

Mr. Frieman‘s claims included that the trial court erred in finding that USI had met its burden of proving the noncompete agreement was valid and enforceable.

The appeals court said, “We cannot and will not reweigh the evidence or override the trial court’s credibility determination. Frieman is, therefore, not entitled to relief on this claim.”

Mr. Frieman’s attorney, Gavin P. Lentz, founding partner at Bochetto & Lentz PC in Philadelphia, said in a statement, “We are preparing our appeal” to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

USI’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.