Robinson & Cole LLP v. Ryan
"A party may recover for breach of loyalty in tort," pursuant to the Connecticut Appellate Court's decision in News America Marketing In-Store Inc. v. Marquis. The plaintiff law firm, Robinson & Cole, alleged that the defendant partner, David Ryan, attempted to take clients away from Robinson & Cole in 2010, in breach of his 2009 employment agreement that Ryan would continue to work for one year at the law firm and would cooperate to transfer his clients and cases to other Robinson & Cole attorneys. Allegedly, Attorney Ryan used confidential information for his own benefit, did not bill for all of his legal time and attempted to persuade clients to send new legal cases to him. Robinson & Cole sued, alleging that Attorney Ryan breached the 2009 employment contract, breached his fiduciary duty and breached the duty of loyalty. Attorney Ryan moved to strike the allegation that he breached the duty of loyalty and argued that this constitutes the same cause of action as a breach of fiduciary duty. In News America Marketing In-Store Inc. v. Marquis, the Connecticut Appellate Court wrote "The general duty of loyalty includes . . . the duty not to compete . . . and the duty not to disclose confidential information." The Superior Court found that Connecticut courts recognize breach of the duty of loyalty as a separate tort from breach of a fiduciary duty. Allegations that Attorney Ryan attempted to prevent clients from referring new matters to Robinson & Cole and to take clients away from Robinson & Cole were sufficient to allege breach of the duty of loyalty, and the court denied Attorney Ryan's motion to strike. The defendant also moved to strike Robinson & Cole's allegation that he violated CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and argued that CUTPA does not apply to the employer-employee relationship. Connecticut courts have found that an employer's claims that an employee allegedly engaged in anti-competitive conduct do not concern the employer-employee relationship and can provide the basis for a CUTPA count. The court denied Attorney Ryan's motion to strike Robinson & Cole's CUTPA count.