The federal court has denied an ambulance company's request to stop two of its former employees from working for a competitor.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona denied St. Michael's Medical Response's motion for preliminary injunction that seeks to restrain John Benedict T. Pelisamen and Michael Manibusan Takai from working for Priority Care.
Judge Manglona also denied St. Michael's request for an injunction to restrain Priority Care, its employees, including Pelisamen and Takai, and associates from servicing or soliciting St. Michael's customers.
The judge also denied St. Michael's remaining request for a preliminary injunction.
Whether St. Michael's is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, Judge Manglona ruled that St. Michael has not shown it will likely suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.
“Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that it is entitled to a preliminary injunction,” said the judge in an order issued Friday.
Judge Manglona said the harm to St. Michael's if the injunction is denied pales in comparison to the harm to Pelisamen and Takai if the injunction is granted.
Saint Michael's is suing Department of Public Safety's Fire chief Thomas M. Manglona and others for allegedly conspiring to destroy the company's business.
August Healthcare Group LLC, owner of Saint Michael's Medical Response, through counsel Braddock J. Huesman, alleged that Thomas Manglona conspired with Joaquin C. Manglona to form a new ambulance company, Priority Care, in an effort to harm St. Michael's.
According to Huesman, it was the defendants intent to run St. Michael's out of business by using Thomas Manglona's position within DPS to harass and interfere with St. Michael's operation.
Aside from Thomas and Joaquin Manglona, August Healthcare Group also named co-defendants Takai, Pelisamen, and Marianas Global Ventures LLC, which owns Priority Care.
Thomas and Joaquin Manglona are cousins and Joaquin is one of the members of Priority Care.
Takai used to work with St. Michael's as an emergency medical technician and ambulance attendant, while Pelisamen previously worked with St. Michael's as an ambulance operator.
The plaintiff is suing Thomas Manglona for violation of due process, malicious prosecution, and equal protection.
The plaintiff is suing all defendants for conspiracy; Takai and Pelisamen for breach of contract; and Priority Care for tortious interference with existing contract.
Saint Michael's is demanding unspecified damages. The company also sought a court order preventing Thomas Manglona from investigating and harassing St. Michael's business and business relationships.
In a motion for preliminary injunction, Saint Michael's asked the court to prevent Pelisamen and Takai from working for Priority Care and from soliciting St. Michael's customers.
The plaintiff wants the court to prevent Priority Care from allegedly transporting and collecting fees from current and former St. Michael's customers.
St. Michael's also asked the court to stop Jack Manglona from allegedly contacting and soliciting St. Michael's customers and from offering kickbacks and bribes to current and former customers of St. Michael's.
In her order, Judge Manglona said an injunction that bars Pelisamen and Takai from working for Priority Care would deprive them of the ability to earn their livelihood in a highly specialized sector of health care on Saipan.
Furthermore, Judge Manglona said, the public will be harmed if stopping Takai and Pelisamen from working for Priority Care reduces Priority Care's ability to serve its customers to the point of removing St. Michael's only competitor.
St. Michael's claims that Priority Care, through Takai and Pelisamen, are using their proprietary customer list to unfairly complete with St. Michael's.
“However, St. Michael's admits to having lost only three customers to Priority Care through the alleged use of the customer list,” the judge said.
The judge said St. Michael's customer list is something that may be determined by Priority Care without Takai and Pelisamen's assistance.
St. Michael's argued that because Takai and Pelisamen have memorized the customer list and patient information, which it claims is the heart of its business, and because the Priority Care defendants continue to use the information, St. Michael's has suffered irreparable harm.
But Judge Manglona determined that while a customer list and data can be considered trade secrets, defendants make a convincing argument that Saipan is such a small community that the names of those needing healthcare transportation services would be public knowledge.
The judge said it would be easy to know who utilizes the services of St. Michael's or the Fire Department by soliciting others or merely observing the customers transported by St. Michael's or the Fire Department to the one public hospital or the few private clinics on island.
Therefore, Judge Manglona said, the list of customers is not necessarily a trade secret in the industry.
“As an injunction may not issue without a showing of irreparable harm, the court need not proceed to the other factors,” she added.