Bella Baby sues Baby Love over hospital photography contract

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 5, 2009

A photography company specializing in newborn portraits claims it employed someone who later used the company's confidential information to start her own business and to steal a hospital contract.

Bella Baby Glenview filed a lawsuit Sept. 16 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Nicole Manley and Baby Love Photography.

Bella Baby claims it already had contracts with hospitals in the St. Louis area that allowed it exclusive rights to take pictures of newborn infants. At the time it hired Manley to work for it, Bella Baby was in the process of obtaining such a contract with St. Anthony's Medical Center, according to the complaint.

On Feb. 24, Bella Baby offered Manley the opportunity to work for it on a contractual basis, which would last 90 days, then be automatically renewed unless Manley was terminated, the suit states.

"In furtherance of the contract, Plaintiff provided Defendant with training and with certain confidential or proprietary information regarding Plaintiff, its unique procedures, professional standards, photographic approach, know-how, trade secrets and techniques, and its business," the complaint says.

After being employed by Bella Baby for a little less than two months, Manley decided to start her own photography business she called Baby Love Photography, Bella Baby claims.

Manley also takes pictures of newborn babies, pregnant mothers and families, competing directly with Bella Baby, the suit states.

At the start of her new business, Manley secured a contract with St. Anthony's Medical Center, granting her exclusive rights to take photos of newborn babies, the complaint says.

"At all times mentioned herein, Defendant knew that Plaintiff reasonably expected to enter into a valid business relationship with St. Anthony's Medical Center," the suit states. "Defendant intentionally interfered with prospective business relationship between Plaintiff and St. Anthony's Medical Center. Specifically, Defendant used confidential information provided by Plaintiff to Defendant's manager and member, Nicole Manley, in order to induce St. Anthony's Medical Center to terminate its prospective business relationship with Plaintiff and to enter into an agreement with Defendant and/or Nicole Manley."

Because it lost this contract, Bella Baby claims it has lost more than $50,000 of income.

Bella Baby is suing Manley and Baby Love Photography because it says Manley is using confidential information it provided her to her benefit.

In the six-count suit, Bella Baby is seeking a judgment of more than $200,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

It is also asking the court to restrain Manley from providing photography services to patients at St. Anthony's Medical Center or to any other person that constitutes direct competition with Bella Baby, to restrain Manley from taking on any more assignments from Baby Love Photography and to prevent Manley from disclosing any confidential information other than what would promote Bella Baby.

P.K. Johnson V of Johnson and Johnson in Belleville will be representing it.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-489.

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