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EPIC swaps charges in poaching dispute with rival

EPIC swaps charges in poaching dispute with rival

EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants last week countersued a rival broker that previously alleged EPIC and a former employee had breached a noncompete agreement.

The dispute, which involves lawsuits filed in federal district courts in Mississippi and Tennessee, stems from the departure of an employee who left a Mississippi-based broker to join EPIC in 2019, allegedly taking clients with him.

In the first lawsuit, Jackson, Mississippi-based Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Inc. filed suit against San Francisco-based EPIC and former employee Parker M. Rains in September. Fisher Brown Bottrell alleged Mr. Rains violated a 2009 noncompete agreement when he left the brokerage to join EPIC that month, according to Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Inc. v. Parker M. Rains and Edgewood Partners Insurance Center d/b/a/ EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Rains acquired the business of several Fisher Brown Bottrell customers.

The suit seeks an injunction against the defendants and charges them with violating the Mississippi Uniform Trade Secrets Act; breach of fiduciary duty, contract and of the duty of good faith and fair dealing; and with tortious interference with business relationships. It seeks a contractual penalty against Mr. Rains, and actual and punitive damages, among other demands.

EPIC filed a motion with the court last Tuesday seeking to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tennessee, stating that Mr. Rains, who lives in Tennessee, does not have clients in Mississippi and has not called on clients in the state. The court issued an order staying discovery in the case pending the issue’s resolution.

Meanwhile, last week EPIC and Mr. Rains countersued Fisher Brown Bottrell in U.S. District Court in Nashville, seeking a judgment that the restrictive covenants in the employment contract between Mr. Rains and the Mississippi brokerage are unenforceable, according to the filing in Parker M. Rains and Edgewood Partners Insurance Center v. Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Inc.

It states the businesses that followed Mr. Rains to EPIC decided to do so “on their own volition.”

An initial case management conference in the case was set for Jan. 9, 2023.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.