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Paradyme Management, Inc. v. Curto

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 3, 2019



          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         This case, though still in its early stages, has had a tortuous history. It began in December 2017, when Paradyme Management, Inc. ("Paradyme"), a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, filed a complaint against its former director of corporate operations, Mary Ellen Curto, accusing her of improperly accessing and retaining confidential work documents. Compl., ECF No. 1. What followed, after I granted Paradyme's motion for a preliminary injunction, see ECF No.9, was a series of spats and other digressions that delayed the resolution of this case by more than a year.

         Last fall, in an attempt to steer these proceedings back onto course, I ordered Ms. Curto to file her long-overdue answer to Paradyme's Complaint or, alternatively, a motion to dismiss the case. See ECF Nos. 97, 98. Ms. Curto, who is representing herself in this suit, did neither. She did, however, explain that she had intended for a document she filed in January 2018 - a document misleadingy titled "Motion to Dismiss Temporary Restraining Order" - to constitute "her response to [Paradymes]] original filing." ECF No. 99. Noting that I had not previously had occasion to rule on that motion, as it had previously been withdrawn as moot, I announced that I would construe it as a motion to dismiss the Complaint and directed the parties to submit further briefing on the motion. See ECF No. 101.

         Here, with this Memorandum Opinion and Order, I concern myself only with Ms. Curto's motion and the memoranda of law the parties have filed in support of or opposition to it. Upon review, I conclude that Ms. Curto is not entitled to a dismissal at this stage of the proceeding.. Her motion is denied, and the case will proceed.


         Ms. Curto's motion, as construed in this Court's November 20, 2018 letter order, challenges the sufficiency of Paradyme's Complaint. See ECF No. 101. Before proceeding to consider her arguments, it is appropriate to recount the allegations Paradyme has raised in that pleading. I stress that, at this stage of the proceedings, I must take those allegations as true. See McCready v. Blue Shield of Va., 649 F.2d 228, 230 (4th Cir. 1981).

         Paradyme traces this dispute to the moment in June 2017 when it offered to hire Ms. Curto as its director of corporate operations. Compl. ¶ 9. The offer letter, noting that Ms. Curto would have access to "highly confidential and sensitive" information, required her, as a condition of employment, to sign an "Employee Non-Dislosure, Non-Compete, and Non-Solicitation Agreement" (the "Agreement"). Id. Ms. Curto both accepted the offer and signed the Agreement on June 20, 2017. See Id. ¶ 10.

         The Agreement contained at least four provisions of relevance to this case. The first of these was a nondisclosure provision, which bound Ms. Curto to refrain from

us[ing] for [her] own benefit or for the benefit of others, or disclos[ing] or divulg[ing] to others, in any manner whatsoever, any Proprietary and/or Confidential Information, except as expressly authorized by [Paradyme] in the course of [her] employment with [Paradyme], and except as may be required by law or legal process as provided hereafter.


         A second provision similarly sought to shield Paradyme documents from broader dissemination. That provision stated:

All Work Product shall be and remain the sole property of [Paradyme] or its Client (as agreed upon between [Paradyme] and its Client, hereinafter "Owner") and, without the written consent of Owner, shall not be copied or reproduced or removed from the premises of Owner, except as required in connection with the performance of [Ms. Curto's] work for [Paradyme].

Id. ¶ 20.

         A third provision required Ms. Curto, upon termination, to return "all materials that contain, refer or relate to Work Product, Intellectual Property, and Proprietary and/or Confidential Information (whether in written, tangible, electronic or any other form." Id. ¶ 21. The provision explicitly barred her from retaining originals or copies of any such documents. See id.

         The fourth and final pertinent provision entitled the company to seek injunctive relief should Ms. Curto breach the Agreement.

         Ms. Curto started working for Paradyme on July 10, 2017. See Id. ¶ 11. As director of corporate operations, she had access to all electronic files the company stored in the "Corporate Support" folder on Google Drive, a cloud computing service allowing account holders to share files. See Id. ¶¶ 12-16. This folder held a wide range of documents, including finance and accounting forms, contracts, internal Paradyme communication, request for proposal ("RFP") responses, and administrative forms. See Id. ¶ 17. Some of these documents, ...

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