Hudson’s attorney: Lawsuit ‘baseless’

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hudson’s Salvage stores has been accused in a federal lawsuit of stealing trade secrets from a competitor.

The Hattiesburg American reports Channel Control Merchants, owner of the Treasure Hunt and Dirt Cheap stores, filed a lawsuit this past week in U.S. District Court against Hudson and his business partners.

The lawsuit was filed against Billy Hudson Sr., a state senator and retired Hudson’s CEO, and his current business partners — Nicholas Shattles, Steve Davis and Frank Breazeale.

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Central Control Merchants alleges Shattles, Davis and Breazeale took trade secrets with them when they went into business with Hudson after being employed with Channel Control Merchants.

The lawsuit alleges that the men took lists of salvage vendors with them after they were no longer employed, violating a confidentiality contract, and now use that information to help Hudson’s business.

Hudson’s Salvage is headquartered in Ellisville and operates 10 stores in central and south Mississippi. Hattiesburg-based Central Control Merchants has 53 stores in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

Alison Tasma Vance of Ridgeland, attorney for Channel Control Merchants, and Billy Hudson, who is a state senator, have declined comment.

Hudson’s has until Feb. 18 to formal respond to the lawsuit.

Chris McDaniel, a Laurel attorney representing Hudson’s and the partners, said the information shouldn’t be considered a trade secret.

“In this business, we’re not talking about a trade secret like the architecture behind the iPad or some secret code,” said McDaniel, also a state senator.

McDaniel said the former employees had access to the same information before Channel Control Merchants came into ownership of the Treasure Hunt and Dirt Cheap operations.

Channel Control Merchants also alleges that the former employees broke a no-compete agreement.

McDaniel said courts usually don’t believe in employers telling someone not to make a living after being severed from the company.

The lawsuit also claims Hudson coerced the men to breach their contracts, that the men violated federal law through unauthorized use of Channel Control Merchants-owned computers and that Hudson’s business is competing unfairly, among other allegations.

“It’s a complicated matter, but it’s not as complicated as they’re making it out to be,” McDaniel said.