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In a case that redefines employment law in Virginia, the State Supreme Court recently issued a definitive ruling on the scope and breadth of not to compete covenants. In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, et al., the court agreed with Sickels, Frei & Mims partner Charles Sickels that the employer’s non-compete restriction was overbroad and unenforceable because it effectively restricted former employees from performing any activity whatsoever for any competitor of the former employer’s. Further, the Court said that the Covenant was not reasonably limited to protect only the employer’s legitimate business interests. The Court noted that the law of non-compete agreements had evolved in Virginia since 1989 in Paramount vs. Rector when it had upheld an identical covenant. Sickels represented Paramount in that case. The Court examined the function component of the restrictive covenant to determine whether the covenant was reasonable and no more restrictive than necessary. The restriction in the employment function with a new employer must be related to the functions the employee performed with the former employer.

Read the full opinion: HOME PARAMOUNT PEST CONTROL COMPANIES, INC. v. JUSTIN SHAFFER, ET AL., No. 101837, November 4, 2011, OPINION BY JUSTICE WILLIAM C. MIMS.pdf

As reported by the Associated Press, the case of The Estate of Daniel Kim versus Virginia Tech, wasn’t about the money, it was about the change in protocol to help students who were in danger of committing suicide. See: In a family’s grief, determination to force university to tell parents of suicidal students

(November 18, 2011 — Fairfax, VA). Virginia Tech University has agreed to revise policies and protocols regarding parental notification of potentially suicidal students as a result of a lawsuit brought by partner Gary Mims over the suicide death of student Daniel Kim of Reston.
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The Fairfax, Virginia law firm of Sickels, Frei & Mims has earned a Top Tier, Best Law Firm Ranking by US News and World Report in its first-ever publication of law firm rankings. The firm was ranked Top Tier for Personal Injury and Top Tier for Medical Malpractice among all of the law firms in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
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With the near omnipresent discussion about Tort Reform, one can’t help but begin to think that there are too many “frivolous lawsuits” being filed, and even won. Just about the only law suits the news reports on are the ones where someone got a ridiculous verdict for a tiny accident. Are these true? Maybe some of them. But, by and large, they are exaggerated or have missing facts that the news didn’t bother to include. Most people do not realize that there are methods in place to keep truly frivolous suits from being filed – and certainly from going to a jury and being won. But that’s another blog for another time.
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The waiver. Everyone knows it. We’ve all signed one. If you want to engage in an activity (little league, summer camp, high school sports or triathlon, for example), chances are someone is going to want you to sign away all your rights.

In 1890, the Virginia Supreme Court addressed the issue of waivers in Johnson’s Adm’x v. Richmond and Danville R.R. Co., 86 Va. 975 (1890) and ruled that such waivers were not valid. In quintessential 19th century language, the Court reasoned that “to hold that it was competent for one party to put the other parties to the contract at the mercy of its own misconduct…can never be lawfully done where an enlightened system of jurisprudence prevails. Public policy forbids it, and contracts against public policy are void.
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The parents of a Virginia Tech suicide victim want to know why school officials didn’t tell them about emails the school received detailing their son’s suicidal behaviors. In our lawsuit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, the family of Daniel Kim is charging Virginia Tech and its administrators with gross negligence for failing to follow the university’s published protocols for dealing with suicide warnings.

The Reston family is also asking the university to assist in the passage of legislation, to be called The Daniel Kim Act, which will require all public universities in the state to notify parents when a threat to the safety of their children is present.

“Daniel Kim’s death was preventable. If Virginia Tech had followed its own published protocols for dealing with a suicide emergency, Daniel would still be alive today,” said Kim’s attorney Gary Brooks Mims. “Further, if the university had notified Mr. Kim of the emails declaring an emergency, he would have been by his son’s side within hours and sought appropriate and urgent medical care.”
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