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USI wins poaching ruling against Alliant, former employee


A Minnesota state court has ruled in USI Insurance Services LLC’s favor in poaching litigation it filed against Alliant Insurance Services Inc. and a former USI employee who left to join Alliant.

Vanessa Anderson became a USI employee after USI acquired her former employer, CHS Insurance Services LLC, in May 2018, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the Stillwater, Minnesota, court in Kibble & Prentice Holding Co., d/b/a/ USI Insurance Services Northwest vs. Vanessa Anderson and Alliant Services Inc.

Ms. Anderson signed an employment agreement in April 2018, in which she agreed to give at least 60 days’ written notice before terminating her employment, and that included restrictions against soliciting or servicing USI clients for at least two years.

Ms. Anderson resigned from USI, effective immediately, in February 2021 and began working for Alliant, according to the ruling. She initially directed USI clients to Alliant producers, then began servicing her former USI clients herself in November 2021, the ruling said.

The court granted partial summary judgment to USI on its claim that Ms. Anderson had breached her employment agreement with respect to its 60-day notice, nonsolicitation and noncompete provisions.

“Anderson’s Employment Agreement is a valid and enforceable contract,” the ruling said. “Alliant had knowledge of the Employment Agreement, and intentionally procured its breach without justification,” it said. “Only the issue of damages remains for trial.”

USI has also sued another former employee, Lee Tillerman, who left at the same time to join Alliant, in Minnesota state court, according to the broker. It has also filed similar lawsuits on the matter in Oregon and Idaho.

USI had no comment on the ruling and an attorney for Alliant and Ms. Anderson did not respond to a request for comment.

In a related case, in May, a federal appeals court affirmed a preliminary injunction enforcing a noncompete agreement in a lawsuit filed against former USI employee Michael Aitkin, who had also worked for CHS, who left to join Alliant in April 2018. A trial in that case is set for Feb. 8.