Legal Question in Business Law in California


In my lawsuit settlement with my ex partner I agreed to refrain from solicitation or doing business with a Hospital. I am a consultant. The hospital now wants to hire me as an employee. Can I do this

Asked on 8/27/08, 4:17 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Re: lawsuit

Maybe. It's impossible to answer without knowing exactly what the settlement agreement says.

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Answered on 8/27/08, 4:39 pm

Jeb Burton The Burton Law Firm

Re: lawsuit

To be sure, an attorney needs to see the settlement agreement. One question though, is whether the agreement requires you not to do business with any hospital or just this hospital in particular (if the latter then it is much more likely to be enforceable, where as the former is likely not to be enforceable). Also, what is the time limit on the agreement (how many years has it been), what is the exact wording of the agreement (does it specifically say you can't do a particular type of business, or act in a particular capacity), etc. There are other issues outside of the contract which might be an issue as well. See an attorney.

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Answered on 8/27/08, 4:48 pm
Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

Re: lawsuit

Sure, you CAN do anything you like. But you risk being sued if the ex partner thinks it violates your agreement. Have the agreement reviewed for an actual 'legal opinion' by counsel, based on all the facts and documents, if you want an answer you can rely upon. The attorney may be able to negotiate a new agreement with the ex partner not to sue you., if one is needed. Feel free to contact me for the legal help you'll need.

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Answered on 8/27/08, 5:27 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: lawsuit

In general, agreements including lawsuit settlements whereby anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful business, trade or occupation are unenforceable as contrary to public policy. There are a couple of rather narrow statutory exceptions, where the sale of a business includes goodwill or in the breakup of a partnership where goodwill is part of the property divided.

I mention this because many people in addition to the asking party read questions and answers on LawGuru, and it is not 100% clear from your post whether your use of the term "partner" refers to a business partner or domestic partner.

Assuming this was a business situation, I would start with the notion that the covenant to refrain from "doing business with" the hospital would be broad enough to include accepting employment, and also that the agreement does not violate state policy and is enforceable.

Based on the limited information given, I'd guess this result is about 60% likely. However, due to the 40% or so possibility that a result in court would be more favorable to you, if the job opportunity is important to you, I'd definitely recommend seeing a business lawyer in person to have the agreement interpreted based on a full reading of all its terms.

I also like the idea of trying to negotiate a waiver of the covenant with the other party to the agreement.

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Answered on 8/27/08, 6:39 pm

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