By Brad Perriello
A former sales rep for Stryker (NYSE:SYK) must face breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty charges in a legal battle with Zimmer Biomet (NYSE:ZBH), a federal judge in Michigan ruled yesterday.
Stryker in 2013 sued a pair of former sales agents, Christopher Ridgeway and Richard Steitzer, accusing them of scheming to poach reps and business from Stryker in Louisiana and New York. Stryker fired Ridgeway in September 2013, after discovering that he was allegedly running a pair of medical supply businesses on the side. In June of that year, Stryker alleged, Biomet began courting Ridgeway, allegedly looking to bring his entire Stryker sales teams on board. Ridgeway also allegedly induced a 3rd Stryker employee, Sheldon Green, to jump ship for Biomet and forwarded Stryker’ Louisiana customer list to Green, according to the complaint.
Ridgeway asked Judge Robert Bell of the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan for summary judgment, arguing that he was not an employee of the Stryker subsidiary that filed the lawsuit, Howmedica Osteonics. Under Michigan law, he contended, only his employer Stryker Leibinger could issue a non-compete agreement.