Collin County Judge Rules Auto Dealership Employment Non-Compete Unenforceable

DALLAS – A Collin Country district judge rejected an attempt by a Frisco, Texas-based Berkshire Hathaway Automotive Dealership to enforce a non-compete employment contract against its former controller, who left to finish her career at Jupiter Chevrolet in Garland.

“This was an overreach by a dealership with the backing of Berkshire Hathaway to try and bully a family-owned dealership and an individual who just wanted a more relaxed work atmosphere,” said Jupiter Chevrolet’s attorney Stephen Higdon, a partner in the trial law firm Lyons & Simmons.

Dee Anne Chase served as Crest Nissan’s controller from February 2015 to June 2019. Six months into her employment she was forced to sign a covenant not to compete or be fired. According to Higdon, she didn’t receive valid consideration in exchange for being made to sign the non-compete. Years later, Mrs. Chase began looking for another job at a less “corporate” dealership having forgotten about the non-compete.

Months after Mrs. Chase announced she would be joining Jupiter Chevrolet in Garland, Crest Nissan, a Berkshire Hathaway Automotive dealership, sued to enforce the non-compete, arguing it could keep Mrs. Chase from working at a dealership within a 50-mile radius of Crest Nissan.

“The 50-mile enforcement radius was not based on any market analytics. Company leaders admitted it was just something that ‘sounded good’ on paper,” said Higdon. “That was just one of many issues with the contract and the strategy dictated by Berkshire Hathaway Automotive in this case. This should send a clear message that Texas courts will not stand for this type of attempt to quash competition.”

Collin County District Court Judge Jill Willis awarded attorneys’ fees and costs to Ms. Chase and Jupiter Chevrolet. “This lawsuit should have never happened,” said Higdon.

“The court’s judgment awarding our fees is a reminder to multibillion companies that our judicial system allows trial lawyers to level the playing field and that bully tactics don’t win in the courtroom. My sincere hope is that Crest Nissan and Berkshire Hathaway Automotive take a serious look at their employment agreements, as well as their attempts to intimidate former employees with unenforceable non-competes.”

The case is NFVT Motors dba Crest Nissan v. Dee Anne Chase and Jupiter Chevrolet, in the 429th Judicial District of Collin County.

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