Architectural firm claims competitor filed frivolous restraining order

Andrea Dearden Jan. 30, 2012, 5:20am


An out-of-state architectural firm is accusing one of its competitors of filing a frivolous restraining order.

Ross & Baruzzini Inc. filed a lawsuit Jan. 12 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against The Estopinal Group LLC, formerly known as The Estopinal Group Inc.

The Estopinal Group employed Stan LaMaster as an architect from June 1994 through March 2003 and again from May 2006 through September 2011, according to the complaint. LaMaster allegedly resigned from his position both times. At the end of his second stint with the company, LaMaster began working for Ross & Baruzzini as an architect.

After he began his job with R&B, LaMaster was allegedly contacted by Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center about a $48-million expansion and renovation project for its Mattoon facility. TEG claims it was not contacted about -- or asked to bid on -- the project. Sarah Bush accepted R&B's proposal in December 2011.

R&B alleges TEG found out about LaMaster's involvement in the project after Sarah Bush mistakenly forwarded paperwork to LaMaster's former TEG email account instead of his current R&B account. TEG then filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against LaMaster for what it called a breach of confidentiality and tortious interference.

However, R&B claims LaMaster never agreed to a contract that would have prevented him from competing with TEG or the firm's clients for a period of five years or that he would disclose confidential information about the company. Knowing this, R&B alleges TEG filed the frivolous motion against LaMaster. Subsequently, R&B says Sarah Bush has ended the design company's involvement in its Mattoon Project, claiming a concern of a delay caused by the temporary restraining order, that has since been denied but remains pending.

R&B accuses TEG of intentionally interfering with its relationship with Sarah Bush. The company asks for actual and compensatory damages plus court costs.

Attorneys Greg M. Lemley, Erin E. Williams and Sarah N. Swatosh of St. Louis are representing R&B. They ask for a jury trial.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case No. 12-L-0023.

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