Safety 1st Systems sues former manager

A company that sells, services, and inspects safety equipment in the Commonwealth has sued its former manager/equipment inspector who, while still employed with the firm, allegedly put up a competing company using his wife as front.

Safety 1st Systems CNMI LLC is suing Ketson Jack Kabiriel for breach of agent’s fiduciary duty of loyalty, breach of contract of employment, breach of contract of non-competition, violation of the CNMI Consumer Protection Act, conversion, and unjust enrichment.

Safety 1st Systems, through counsel Joseph E. Horey, asked the Superior Court to hold Kabiriel liable to pay damages, restitution, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

Safety 1st Systems also asked the court to stop Kabiriel from engaging in business that will compete with the company until March 1, 2020.

It wants Kabiriel to return allegedly wrongfully converted property.

Safety 1st Systems owner Richard A. Pierce declined to speak about the lawsuit, saying it is now a matter before the court.

As of press time, Saipan Tribune was still trying to obtain comments from Kabiriel.

According to the complaint filed last week, Kabiriel was with Safety 1st Systems from 1999 until March 1, 2019.

Horey said that, in March 2016, Safety 1st Systems and Kabiriel came to an agreement, wherein Kabiriel would continue working for Safety 1st Systems for at least one more year and that, after his employment, he would not compete with plaintiff’s business for at least one year.

Safety 1st Systems now accuses Kabiriel of breaching that oral agreement, saying that Kabiriel, while still employed by Safety 1st Systems, directly competed with it on behalf of a new company called Pacific BlazeTech Service in late 2015 or early 2016.

Horey said that Kabiriel’s wife, Patrinicia, was initially a 50-percent partner and later a sole proprietor of Pacific BlazeTech.

Beginning at this time, Horey said, Kabiriel contacted Safety 1st Systems’ customers and inspected their fire extinguishers for Pacific BlazeTech, affixing a tag or sticker to the extinguishers indicating that they had been inspected by Pacific BlazeTech, and collecting the payment for Pacific BlazeTech.

In some instances, Kabiriel allegedly informed customers that he was inspecting their fire extinguishers, and collecting their payment, as a representative of Pacific BlazeTech rather than as a representative of Safety 1st Systems.

On at least one occasion, Horey said, Kabiriel gave a customer a price quotation for inspection services on behalf of Safety 1st Systems, then later provided a customer a price quotation for the same service on behalf of Pacific BlazeTech, advising the customer the Pacific BlazeTech could do the same work just as well as plaintiff, and less expensively.

Horey said that several customers, who understood Kabiriel to be Safety 1st Systems’ employee, went to the plaintiff’s shop for inspection of certain equipment, unaware that Kabiriel did the prior inspection of the same equipment on behalf of Pacific BlazeTech.

On at least one occasion, during his employment with plaintiff, Kabiriel allegedly submitted a competitive bid on behalf of Pacific BlazeTech for a contract servicing and inspecting a customer’s fire extinguishers, while neglecting to submit a bid for the same contract on behalf of Safety 1st Systems.

Kabiriel allegedly used his familiarity with Safety 1st Systems’ confidential business information, including business plan, lists of suppliers and customers, catalogs of equipment, pricing systems, customers’ inspection schedules, and overall familiarity with customers’ particular needs and concerns, to do business for Pacific BlazeTech.

Horey said in late 2018, Kabiriel entered into discussions, leading to an agreement, with a person whereby Kabiriel would continue with his competitive business activity, but would shift its operations from Pacific BlazeTech to a company controlled by that person.

The person would open a shop and do business under the name Safety Management System, from which shop Kabiriel would allegedly operate.

Horey said that last March 1, Kabiriel quit working for the Safety 1st Systems.

From that time until the present, Kabiriel has allegedly acted as sales representative and equipment inspector for Safety Management System, while Safety Management System has engaged in the business of sales and service and inspection of safety equipment for the home and workplace.

During that time, Horey said, Kabiriel has sold, services, and inspected, and continues to sell, service, and inspect, workplace safety equipment in direct competition with Safety 1st Systems.

The lawyer said Kabiriel has “willfully engaged in acts and practices which are unfair or deceptive to the consumer, all in violation of the CNMI Consumer Protection Act.” (Ferdie de la Torre)

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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