When workers get sued by their employer for breaching their employment contract, it’s fairly common for the workers to argue that the contract was invalid, but it’s less common for them to claim their signature on the contract was forged. That’s what Eric M. Frieman said when USI Insurance Services, LLC, sued him for allegedly stealing clients away from Wells Fargo to work with his new employer, RCM&D Self-Insured Services Inc., otherwise known as SISCO.
Frieman started working for Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc. in 2008 as an employee benefits producer. In 2010, he signed an employment contract with Wells Fargo that included clauses that forbade him from working for a competitor and/or soliciting clients from Wells Fargo to switch to his new employer.
But when Frieman left Wells Fargo in 2016 to go work for RCM&D, he allegedly actively solicited 18 clients he had served while working at Wells Fargo and invited them to switch over to RCM&D, which they did. USI purchased Wells Fargo in 2017 and they are named as the main plaintiffs in the non-compete lawsuit against Frieman.
Rather than denying that the employment contract he signed with Wells Fargo is valid, Frieman claimed that he had never signed the document and that his signature had been forged. He insisted he only has one signature and that the signature above his name on his employment contract with Wells Fargo does not match his signature.
A handwriting expert was brought in to testify that other documents signed by Frieman contain signatures matching the one on his contract with Wells Fargo. On a deed he signed in 2005 transferring ownership of his prior home, two variations of his signature were found: both the one he said is his standard signature and the one matching the signature on his employment contract.
With the help of a handwriting expert and the mortgage contract, the attorneys representing USI in the employment lawsuit were able to successfully convince the court that Frieman had, in fact, signed his employment agreement with Wells Fargo, making the contract valid and enforceable. The Pennsylvania state court hearing the case ruled in favor of USI and awarded the insurance company $1.7 million in damages. The amount was based on the total amount of commissions RCM&D received from the 18 clients who made the switch from USI after Frieman allegedly solicited them in violation of his employment contract. If RCM&D was also named as a defendant in the case, it might be the one made to pay all or part of the $1.7 million, especially if Frieman himself is unable to produce the funds on his own.
An attorney representing USI praised both the decision and USI for pursuing the case to its conclusion, while an attorney for Frieman said they were disappointed with the court’s decision and that they were already setting up to appeal. Given the fact that this initial decision came from a state court, there’s a potential for this case to keep going for years, although a higher court could always refuse to hear the case.
When it comes to non-compete and other issues, we like to think Lubin Austermuehle is ahead of the competition all over the Chicagoland area, from Warrenville to Wheaton to Bolingbrook and beyond. A key component of our leadership position is the fact that we don’t just listen, we hear you, as you can find out in a FREE consultation. We’ll discuss your legal issues and needs and our ability to meet (and exceed) your expectations. Call 630-333-0333 or contact us via our website by clicking here. We look forward to speaking with you.