Expro Americas, LLC v. WaltersAnnotate this Case
Expro Americas, LLC ("Expro") filed a complaint seeking, inter alia, a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Eddie Walters, a former Expro employee, and H&H Welding, LLC. Expro offered "oil and gas well and pipeline services," including providing "specially designed flaring products and services to pipeline transmission companies and refineries along the Gulf Coast." Expro's six-inch, trailer-mounted flare stacks were at the heart of this dispute. Eddie Walters was an Expro employee until August 5, 2013. Thereafter, Walters was employed by Clean Combustion, a competitor of Expro's that was created in 2013 by former Expro employees. Expro filed its application for a restraining order against H&H and Walters, alleging that both defendants stole the design for its flare stack. Expro specifically alleged that "[t]he information used to design and create the trailer-mounted flaring system is a ‘trade secret' of Expro's." Furthermore, it alleged breach of contract against H&H, claiming that the terms of Expro's purchase orders with H&H contained a "Proprietary Rights" section "in which H&H ‘warrants to keep all design, information, blueprints and engineering data with respect to the Goods confidential and to not make use of but to assign to Expro each invention, improvement and discovery relating thereto (whether or not patentable) conceived or reduced to practice in the performance of the Purchase Order by any person employed by or working under the directions of the Supplier Group.'" The trial court granted the restraining order, but after conducting an evidentiary hearing, the chancellor dissolved the temporary restraining order and found no facts to justify the issuance of a preliminary injunction. The chancellor awarded the defendants attorneys' fees and expenses in excess of the $5,000 injunction bond that Expro had posted. After determining that Expro's suit against H&H was meritless, the chancellor sua sponte dismissed H&H from the suit with prejudice. Expro appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found that the chancellor did not err by awarding the defendants attorneys' fees and expenses, because Expro's application for a preliminary injunction was frivolous and was made in bad faith. However, the Court found the chancellor misapplied Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4, and therefore erred by dismissing H&H from the suit with prejudice.