E.T. Products, LLC v. D.E. Miller Holdings, Inc., No. 16-1204 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Doug Miller and his son signed a broad noncompetition agreement when Doug sold his fuel-additives business, E.T., in 2011. Doug sold his other company, Petroleum Solutions, to Kuhns about a year later. E.T.’s new owners sued the Millers for breaching the noncompete by providing assistance to Kuhns as he learned the Petroleum Solutions business. The Millers claimed the noncompete was overbroad and unenforceable and that their assistance to Kuhns came at a time when Petroleum Solutions was E.T.’s distributor, not its competitor. When E.T. severed its relationship with Petroleum Solutions in 2012, Doug told Kuhns that the noncompetition agreement prevented further help and ceased assisting him. On summary judgment, the district judge held that the noncompetition agreement was enforceable but the Millers did not breach it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the contract was not overbroad, but that the Millers did not breach it. A company’s distributor is not its competitor, so the Millers’ assistance to Kuhns in 2012 was "fair game." The contract, read reasonably, did not require Doug to break his preexisting lease with Kuhns.