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UP Aerospace, Inc. v. Knight

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford, Hartford

June 2, 2014

UP Aerospace, Inc.
v.
Eric Knight et al

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (#136 AND #138)

Sheila A. Huddleston, Judge.

The plaintiff, UP Aerospace, Inc., brought this action for injunctive relief against the defendants, Eric Knight and Remarkable Technologies, Inc. In the operative March 20, 2013 substitute verified complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated a court-approved settlement agreement that contained strict limitations on what the defendants could publicly represent regarding Knight's prior involvement with UP Aerospace. The plaintiff seeks an order enjoining the defendants from further violations of the settlement agreement and an award of reasonable attorneys fees and costs pursuant to the settlement agreement.

On February 28, 2014, the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability on the ground that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendants breached the settlement agreement. The same day, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff cannot prove that it has sustained any harm, irreparable or otherwise.

I

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The standard for summary judgment is well established. " Practice Book § 17-49 provides that summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) LaFlamme v. Dallessio, 261 Conn. 247, 250, 802 A.2d 63 (2002). Practice Book § 17-50 permits a party to move for summary judgment on the issue of liability alone. " In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connell v. Colwell, 214 Conn. 242, 246-47, 571 A.2d 116 (1990). Furthermore, on summary judgment all inferences from the facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Buell Industries, Inc. v. Greater New York Mutual Ins. Co., 259 Conn. 527, 558, 791 A.2d 489 (2002).

II

UNDISPUTED FACTS

The following facts are undisputed unless indicated otherwise. Knight is a founder and former officer of UP Aerospace, a space launch and test flight services provider engaged in the business of launching rockets into space with commercial or educational payloads. Knight was involved with UP Aerospace from the time it was incorporated in 2004 through January of 2008, previously serving as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Defendant Remarkable Technologies is a Connecticut corporation founded by Knight in 1994 which is under the control of Knight and his wife.

In June of 2008, after a falling out, Knight and Remarkable Technologies brought an action in state court against UP Aerospace and three other founders of UP Aerospace, Jerry Larson, Dan Hanle, and William Heiden, alleging breaches of employment and licensing agreements, among other claims. Knight v. UP Aerospace, Inc., Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Docket No. CV-08-5020617-S (state action). In July of 2008, UP Aerospace initiated an action in federal district court against Remarkable Technologies and Knight, claiming violations of various federal statutes related to Knight's termination of UP Aerospace's computer systems and Remarkable Technology's ownership of UP Aerospace's domain name. UP Aerospace, Inc. v. Remarkable Technologies, Inc., United States District Court, Docket No. 3:08-CV-01141 (RNC) (D. Conn.) (federal action).

Following motions practice in federal court, the parties (UP Aerospace, Larson, Hanle, Heiden, Knight, and Remarkable Technologies) eventually reached an agreement, dated August 3, 2010 (settlement agreement), settling both the state and federal actions. Both Knight and Remarkable Technologies signed the settlement agreement. As part of the consideration, UP Aerospace agreed to buy all of the stock Knight owned in the company for $120, 000. The funds were released to Knight in November of 2010. Remarkable Technologies agreed, among other things, to relinquish the domain name upaerospace.com. The agreement contains a merger clause, and also provides that the sole remedy for breach would be " a suit to enjoin the breach of this Agreement and/or a suit for money damages." The provision that is central to the present lawsuit, Section 1.e., contains restrictions on representations that Knight may make concerning his relationship with UP Aerospace, and provides as follows:

" e. Knight shall not affirmatively represent or market himself as having any involvement with or in the current business operations of UP Aerospace in any way. Knight may, however, represent any one, or all of, the following, so long as he also simultaneously represents 'I have not been involved in the operations of UP Aerospace since January 2008:'

(1) 'I was a co-founder of UP Aerospace, which was incorporated in 2004'
(2) 'I was CEO and CMO from June 2005 until February 2007, and was the CMO from June ...

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