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United Board & Carton Corp. v. Britting

Decided: May 12, 1960.

UNITED BOARD & CARTON CORPORATION, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM J. BRITTING, ET ALS., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Price, Gaulkin and Foley.

Per Curiam

R.R. 1:7-1(c) requires that the statement of questions involved shall set "forth each question separately," and R.R. 1:7-1(e) that "[t]he argument for the appellant * * * shall be divided, under appropriate headings distinctively printed, into as many parts as there are points to be argued." In violation of these rules defendants have lumped all of the alleged errors in the following "Statement of Question [ sic ] Involved":

"Was it not error for the trial court to enter an injunction restraining the defendants for a period of two years from doing business with any customer of the plaintiff when it affirmatively appeared that there were no restrictive covenants and no trade secrets

or confidential information involved, the basis of the decision being that the defendants had been guilty of a divided allegiance while in the employ of the plaintiff, and when it affirmatively appeared that the plaintiff had knowingly practiced deception on its customers for a period of years and insisted that the defendants continue such deception?"

All of the reasons which they urge for reversal are argued under one point, entitled "The Trial Court Erred in Restraining The Defendants From Soliciting Customers of The Plaintiff."

Disregard of the rules makes our task more time-consuming, but that is not the chief reason for the rules. Analyzing a brief which is not laid out according to the rules is like traveling an unmarked road in strange territory. We may reach our destination in spite of the hardship, but we may lose our way. When that possibility is presented we are compelled, in our desire to do justice to the offending litigant himself, to suppress the brief, under R.R. 1:7-9, and order a new one. In the case at bar we have concluded not to suppress the brief, but to note that our task in finding and studying the defendants' arguments has not been an easy one, and to emphasize the importance of the cited rule to the end that its requirements may be followed more rigidly.

The facts are sufficiently stated in the trial court's full and thorough opinion, and we shall not restate them except to the extent necessary to dispose of the specific questions hereafter discussed.

One of defendants' contentions is that plaintiff is barred from equitable relief because of "unclean hands." The trial court's only reference to this point was to say (emphasis ours):

"They conducted a campaign among the customers disparaging plaintiff's products, which each of them had sold exclusively to these same customers for many years. Boxes with 38-pound liners, instead of 42-pound liners, as required by I.C.C. regulations, had been sold by these defendants for years to the same customers, in accordance with a generally accepted trade custom to meet cut-throat competition , without any substantial complaints. Armed with this half-truth,

which they themselves had known of for a long time, they set out to convince the customers that they were being cheated by their employer. Presumably, William J. Britting would have conveniently forgotten the 38-pound liners, if his salary request of $25,000 had been granted. They did not give the employer even a sporting chance to explain or defend itself. They pictured their own employer as a fraud and a cheat and made representations that if an order was placed with Carton Sales, the customer would get what he ordered. How they squared themselves with the customers, from whom they had procured orders for years, with full knowledge of the facts, is left to conjecture."

The evidence in the record is not sufficient to support a finding that misrepresenting the boxes was "in accordance with a generally accepted trade custom," or that such deception was necessary "to meet cut-throat competition." Beyond that, if the doctrine of "unclean hands" does apply to the case at bar, plaintiff should be debarred ...


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