San Jose Constr., Inc. v. S.B.C.C., Inc., 155 Cal. App. 4th 1528 (2007)

Richard Foust was a project manager for San Jose Construction (“SJC”) for 4½ years before he became dissatisfied with his job and accepted a position at a higher salary with South Bay Construction (“South Bay”), one of SJC’s competitors. Foust believed that SJC’s clients would follow him to another company, so he took information regarding pending projects to enable him to “move forward with those projects” at South Bay. Foust’s assistant copied documents and downloaded data from SJC’s files and computers, which were subsequently uploaded onto South Bay’s computers and placed into its project binders. At the direction of South Bay, Foust returned some documents to SJC and “erased” some data from South Bay’s computers. In the ensuing litigation against South Bay, SJC alleged misappropriation of its trade secrets, interference with contract and prospective economic advantage and unfair competition. The trial court granted South Bay’s motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal reversed, finding triable issues of material fact regarding whether South Bay misappropriated SJC’s trade secrets by using or acquiring them through Foust. Cf. Venhaus v. Shultz, 155 Cal. App. 4th 1072 (2007) (neither willful nor intentional conduct must be proved to prevail on claim for negligent interference with prospective economic advantage).