THE BOTTOM LINE:
In the case of First Express Services Group, Inc. v. Easter, 286 Neb. 912 (2013 Neb.), the Nebraska Supreme Court found that a customer list is not a trade secret.
The opinion turned on the unique nature of crop insurance and the Nebraska Trade Secrets Act – Neb. Rev. Stat. 87-502(4). Nebraska courts are reluctant to protect customer lists to the extent that they embody information that is readily ascertainable though public sources. The crop insurance customers’ information was available on the insurer’s web site once the customers changed carriers. Also the federal government sets prices on crop insurance. The former broker knew or could find out who purchased crop insurance because of this program.
Can an agency sue a former broker for loss of future revenue after she solicited customers to her new firm?
Agencies and insurers who employ particular agents would be wise to obtain solid covenants not to compete in their employment contracts. The Nebraska court eventually upheld a verdict for the insurer in this case. Despite finding that the customer list was not a trade secret, the Court did find that the former broker breached her employment contract. She was ordered to pay over $350,000 for her breach.