A U.S. District Court judge recently awarded more than $650,000 to a Bryant company against one of its former employees who started a competing business.
Fire Extinguisher Sales & Services of Arkansas LLC, which sells, services and installs fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems, received the $651,853 judgment against Ryan Pitts of Maumelle. A portion of the damages — $250,000 — was for Pitts’ theft of trade secrets and proprietary information, according to the consent decree and final judgment filed last month by U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky.
In a twist, Pitts had first sued the company in January 2021, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and saying he was owed overtime. At that time, he was represented by the Sanford Law Firm in Little Rock, but the firm stopped representing him in September 2021. Pitts represented himself throughout the remainder of the case.
Pitts had worked for the company as a fire suppression technician beginning in 2012. When he was hired, Pitts was paid $1,500 for a noncompete agreement. He resigned in December 2020 and started his own company, Rapid Action Protection LLC of Maumelle.
FESSA denied Pitts’ allegations and filed several counterclaims against him, including breach of contract and violation of the Arkansas Trade Secrets Act. FESSA said that Pitts’ company began providing services to the same clients Pitts had while working for FESSA. (The Arkansas secretary of state’s website shows Rapid Action Protection’s status as revoked.)
FESSA also said it discovered that after Pitts left he allegedly had bought unauthorized items on the company credit card that included car washes and items from Amazon and Walmart.
The alleged embezzlement totaled about $34,400.
During the case, “Pitts’ repeated deceitful and obstreperous conduct has severely undermined this litigation,” Rudofsky wrote in an August order.
Rudofsky ruled in August in favor of FESSA and against Pitts “based on his incessant abuses of the judicial process.”
After FESSA submitted its amount for damages, Pitts didn’t contest them and acknowledged that the damages were legally and factually warranted.
Pitts couldn’t be reached for comment.
FESSA was represented by the Barber Law Firm PLLC of Little Rock.