Monday, October 23, 2006

The Texas Supreme Court issued two opinions on Friday. The first case, Coca-Cola Co. v. Harmar Bottling Co., is a 5 to 4 opinion with Justice Hecht writing this majority opinion. The case involved two issues: (1) whether Texas courts can adjudicate and remedy an anti-competitive injury occurring in another state, either under the TFEAA or the law of that state; and (2) whether the plaintiffs have shown substantial harm to competition because of defendants' conduct. On the first issue, the Court held that TFEAA will not support extraterritorial relief in the absence of a showing that such relief promotes competition in Texas or benefits Texas consumers. On the second issue, the Court held that there was a lack of evidence showing substantial harm to competition. As a result, the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims of injury occurring in other states.

Justice Brister, writing this dissenting opinion joined by Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice O'Neil, and Justice Medina, dissented because "[t]here is a line between competing and bullying, and the Jury found that Coke crossed it."

The second case, Alex Sheshunoff Management Servs. v. Kenneth Johnson and Strunk & Assoc., revisits the Court’s 1994 decision in Light v. Centel Cellular Co. and again considers the enforceability of covenants not to compete in the context of at-will employment. The case posed the question of "whether an at-will employee who signs a non-compete covenant is bound by that agreement if, at the time the agreement is made, the employer has no corresponding enforceable obligation. Under Light, the answer to that question was always 'no.'" Justice Willett, in this opinion, modified the Court's holding in Light and held that "an at-will employee’s non-compete covenant becomes enforceable when the employer performs the promises it made in exchange for the covenant." The Court clarified that the Covenants Not to Compete Act does not require the agreement containing the covenant to be enforceable the instant the agreement is made.

Chief Justice Jefferson delivered this concurring opinion, which was joined by Justice O'Neill and Justice Medina.

Justice Wainwright delivered this concurring opinion.