Lawsuit filed against a Monroe County Repair Shop

By Amanda Browning | Guest Writer

STROUDSBURG, PA — The owners of a local repair shop, Walter Zink and Deborah Kammerman of Walt’s Auto and Electric, are the defendants in a lawsuit made by another business owner.
According to the lawsuit filed by Stouts Mower Service owner Michael Griffiths, on April 14, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse, Zink and Kammerman allegedly took confidential customer information and falsely operated under the Stouts name, which they had no legal right to use.

The lawsuit alleges Walt’s copied Stouts’ customer list during negotiations to purchase the business. Court documents state that Walt’s publicly announced they had purchased Stouts Mower Service on their social media page and proceeded to contact customers claiming to be “taking over Stouts service.”

Griffiths’ lawyer, Joshua Goldberg, sought an injunction to stop the alleged use of the Stout's name and customer list, but it was denied by Monroe County Judge Daniel Higgins Jr. on April 29, 2021, for failure to establish the requirements of a preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit includes four counts, which include claims of interference with customers and employees, breach of confidentiality, unjust enrichment, and conversion. Essentially, this means Walt’s stands accused of taking confidential information and using it for personal gain, poaching customers and employees, and intentionally harming Griffiths’ business.

Goldberg and the defendants’ attorney, Elizabeth Anderson, shared a series of preliminary objections and amended complaints, with both parties making legal arguments on behalf of their clients. Judge Higgins cleared the lawsuit to proceed on May 18, removing the requested punitive damages on counts two and three.

“It’s sad that someone would take advantage of another like this, and I’m ashamed to be a victim. I can’t be specific because we still have a case in court,” Griffiths said when asked to comment on the lawsuit. “Since the judge denied the injunction, I tell the story to everyone I meet. They didn’t even deny what they did. They acted like it was ‘No harm, no foul.’”

According to public court documents, disgruntled former Stouts employee Angelo Melendez went to work for Walt’s after being laid off from Stouts, though both sides agree his employment was not poaching. Melendez appears to have played a role in the sale negotiations for the purchase of the Stouts business, though it was unclear precisely what that role may have been from the available records.

Anderson stated her clients did not poach customers from Stouts, as the customers who came to Walt’s did so after being unable to contact Stouts and believing the business closed. Goldberg denied Stouts was closed for business and alleged Walt’s actively purported itself as “taking over Stouts service.”

Goldberg claims Griffiths’ business interests were harmed by Walt’s alleged removal and use of confidential, proprietary information in the form of lost customers, reputational damage, and lost earnings. Griffiths initially sought punitive damages exceeding $50,000, but the request for punitive damages was stricken from counts two and three of the lawsuit.

Throughout Anderson’s most recent answer to Goldberg’s amended complaint, filed June 13, claims are made that Stouts was closed to the public, could not be reached by telephone, suffered a bad reputation, and had no goodwill in the community despite 65 years of operation, all of which Goldberg denied.

“They set off a cascade of losses for my business and ruined its relocation. Buying the business was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I risked a lot,” Griffiths said when asked about the impact of the alleged events. “People depended on us, and we were succeeding. Now, I have no idea what will happen. I’m glad someone is looking into this.”

Attorneys for both parties could not be reached or declined to comment on an ongoing case, as did the other individuals involved. More information about this developing case will be published as it becomes available.


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