United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
GARY WILLERT, LISA WILLERT, LASERMASTERS, LLC, and GPS HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiffs,
BRUCE ANDRE and LIBERTY PARTS TEAM, INC., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE
Gary and Lisa Willert are the sole members of plaintiff
LaserMaster, LLC, a refurbisher of toner cartridges for
printers. In 2014, LaserMaster, through its subsidiary,
plaintiff GPS Holdings, LLC, acquired Global Printer
Services, Inc., (a printer remanufacturer) from defendant
Bruce Andre. Plaintiffs allege that Andre breached the
contract covering the acquisition by encouraging several GPS
employees to leave GPS and work for its competitor, defendant
Liberty Parts Team, Inc., and falsely informing GPS customers
that GPS had gone out of business. Plaintiffs allege that
Liberty then stopped paying LaserMaster for the parts it
purchased. Plaintiffs assert various state-law claims against
defendants. Dkt. 25.
moves to dismiss several of plaintiffs' claims under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 28. The court
will grant Liberty's motion in part, dismissing
plaintiffs' claims of tortious interference with their
relationships with Andre and their customers and their claim
under Wisconsin's Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
court draws the following facts from plaintiffs'
complaint, Dkt. 25, and accepts them as true for the purpose
of deciding Liberty's motion. Zahn v. N. Am.
Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th
case concerns the printer and printing supply refurbishing
and remanufacturing industry. There are three main types of
businesses in this industry: (1) remanufacturers, which
rebuild printers and printing supplies, such as toner
cartridges, to the original manufactured product's
specifications using reused, repaired, and new parts; (2)
refurbishers, which clean and repair minor defects in
printers and printing supplies; and (3) parts suppliers,
which supply parts for remanufacturers and refurbishers.
back in 1989, David Reinke became CEO of Parts Now, LLC, a
parts supplier. In 1992, defendant Bruce Andre joined Parts
Now as a sales representative. In 1995, Andre left Parts Now
to found Global Printer Services, Inc., a printer
remanufacturer. But he remained friends with Reinke; the two
had a '"gentleman's agreement' regarding the
segment of the industry each would occupy." Dkt. 25,
¶ 31. Around 1999, Reinke sold Parts Now. He later
started defendant Liberty Parts Team, Inc., another parts
in 1996, plaintiffs Lisa and Gary Willert bought LaserMaster,
LLC, a toner cartridge refurbisher and remanufacturer. On
June 11, 2014, LaserMaster acquired Global Printer Services
from Andre. Under the terms of the contract governing the
acquisition, GPS was to pay Andre $5, 500, 000 and
LaserMaster was to issue Andre 75, 000 membership interests
in LaserMaster. In exchange, Andre agreed not to solicit any
GPS customers, employees, or independent contractor or own,
manage, advise, or consult any person or entity engaged in
printer remanufacturing sales and services for five years.
Neither Andre nor the Willerts was to make any derogatory or
disparaging statement about each other. After the
acquisition, Andre remained president of GPS. In September
2015, LaserMaster acquired Parts Now. In November 2015, Andre
stopped working for GPS and sold his membership interest in
LaserMaster back to the Willerts. Under a series of contracts
governing the buyout, the Willerts agreed to pay Andre $2,
150, 000; Andre reaffirmed that he would not solicit any GPS
customers, employees, or independent contractor or own,
manage, advice, or consult any person or entity engaged in
printing remanufacturing sales and services; and all
reaffirmed that they would not make any derogatory or
disparaging statement about each other.
where things turned south. Plaintiffs allege that Andre and
Liberty began colluding to poach GPS employees and enter the
printer remanufacturing business in competition with GPS.
They allege that during and after the buyout, Andre hosted
several parties for GPS employees and made derogatory or
disparaging remarks about plaintiffs at one of those parties.
Several months after the buyout, he visited GPS's
Wisconsin offices and met privately with several GPS
employees. GPS employees began leaving GPS to work for
Liberty. One of them, Gregory Kastenmeier, was the GPS
production manager and was privy to GPS's confidential
and proprietary information, including standard operating
procedures and checklists for remanufacturing printers.
Kastenmeier brought the standard operating procedures and
checklists with him to Liberty, at Liberty's request.
Liberty sought GPS salary information and price lists from
former GPS employees and offered cash incentives for poaching
additional GPS employees. In total, about 10 GPS employees
moved to Liberty, representing about 15 percent of GPS's
as Liberty hired Kastenmeier, it started remanufacturing
printers. It lied about this, telling the Willerts that it
wasn't remanufacturing printers but telling GPS customers
not only that it was entering the remanufacturing business
but that GPS was leaving the remanufacturing business. For
example, a Liberty employee sent the following email to a GPS
Since [LaserMaster] closed down operations for Global Printer
and Parts Now here in Madison, we have hired most of the
Global staff and launched a remanufactured printers division
as of November.
Id. ¶ 123. As a result of Liberty's false
statements, plaintiffs' sales have suffered: GPS's
annual gross revenue is about half of what Global Printer
Services' annual gross revenue was before the
acquisition. Also, Liberty owes LaserMaster $27, 246.28 for
parts it bought in the spring of 2017, which it refuses to
filed suit against Andre and ...