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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Federal courts decline to enjoin Jarvis Jones' suit against Travelers

Former Minnesota State Bar Association President Jarvis Jones has secured his day in state court in Georgia, where he is suing five current or former employees of his former employer, The St. Paul Companies (now known as Travelers).

Jones has been suing his ex-employer for more than five years. He moved to Georgia while he was MSBA president to serve as regional vice president of the company's small commercial business unit, but was terminated in February 2002. He sued the company in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota for race discrimination and defamation, but lost in 2005 after a 10-day trial. (See "Jones loses race-bias suit against St. Paul Travelers," in the May 15, 2005, edition of Minnesota Lawyer, password required.)

Nine months after the verdict, Jones sued his ex-employer in state court in Georgia for tortious interference with contractual relations and interference with prospective business relations. (Jones had not raised tortious interference claims in the federal litigation.)

U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum declined to enjoin the Georgia litigation under the federal Anti-Injunction Act, and the 8th Circuit affirmed last week. Because the tortious interference claims had not been actually litigated in federal court, Travelers should raise its res judicata argument in state court, not federal court, the 8th Circuit reasoned.

While this is a victory for Jones, it may prove short-lived. In his ruling last year, Rosenbaum said: "[T]he Minnesota action encompassed virtually every claim that might have been raised from the relationship between plaintiff and his former employer and its employees [in the Georgia action]. ... This Court is confident that its Georgian sister court will analyze all of these issues in determining whether the matter may be permitted to proceed."

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