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NC Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Sunbelt Rentals

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  • October 26, 2005

Upholds Unfair Trade Practices Lawsuit Against Head & Engquist

(Charlotte, October 26, 2005) – Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP announced that the North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a 2003 Business Court ruling in favor of its client, Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. on October 18, 2005. The opinion affirms the North Carolina Business Court’s ruling that Head & Engquist Equipment, L.L.C. and other defendants violated the North Carolina Trade Secret Protection Act and the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and is responsible for damages and attorney fees totaling $16.2 million.

In early 2000, Ashtead Group PLC, the United Kingdom-based parent company of Sunbelt Rentals, announced plans to acquire BPS Equipment Rental, the hi-lift division of Rentokil. The court ruled that the conduct of Robert Hepler, BPS CEO, Douglas Kline, BPS COO, and other managers at BPS, in raiding more than 100 BPS employees to open new branch offices for Head & Engquist’s hi-lift division in markets served by Sunbelt including Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa-Fort Myers-Orlando, Dallas and Houston was in violation of North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In addition, the Court found that the defendant unlawfully misappropriated BPS/Sunbelt’s trade secrets.

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals unanimously upheld this ruling in favor of our client,” said William L. Rikard, Jr., lead attorney for the plaintiff and Chair of Parker Poe’s Litigation Department. “This is an important ruling in the area of unfair and deceptive trade practices and confirms that the North Carolina courts are willing to enforce legal and ethical constraints on inappropriate conduct of business people in the competitive marketplace.”

In addition to Mr. Rikard, Parker Poe attorneys representing the plaintiff included Eric D. Welsh, Deborah L. Edney and Kristin R. Poolos. The case was heard in the North Carolina Court of Appeals on March 5, 2005.

A copy of the preliminary ruling is available at the North Carolina Court Systems’ website: http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2005/040862-1.htm. Judge Ben F. Tennille of the Superior Court for Complex Business Cases issued his judgment on May 2, 2003, which can be viewed at http://www.ncbusinesscourt.net/opinions/2003 NCBC 4.htm.

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP currently has more than 175 lawyers, with five offices in the Carolinas including Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina and Charleston, Columbia and Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Firm provides a complete range of legal services and has extensive experience in antitrust and business torts, banking and finance, bankruptcy, reorganization and creditors’ rights, commercial litigation, corporate and commercial law, employee benefits, employment, environmental, government, health care, international, mergers and acquisitions, public finance, real estate and commercial development, securities, tax and torts, trial and insurance. www.parkerpoe.com.