Former Whirlpool exec dodges trade-secret claims over Haier move

An Italian former Whirlpool Corp executive who left for appliance-industry competitor Haier has defeated, for now, claims in Delaware federal court that he stole company trade secrets.

Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool failed to show that the court had jurisdiction over the claims against Davide Cabri and could not block him from working for Haier’s European subsidiary Candy Hoover Group, a federal judge said Thursday.

However, Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Evan Wallach allowed Whirlpool’s claim that Cabri breached a contract with the company to move forward.

Whirlpool said in a statement provided Friday by its attorney that it would continue with the case and “vigorously explore all possible avenues” to protect its proprietary information.

Cabri’s attorney and Haier Europe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cabri worked for Whirlpool for more than 32 years and was a high-level executive in Whirlpool’s global laundry division before telling the company he had accepted a new job at Candy Hoover last April.

Whirlpool sued Cabri in July, arguing Haier had hired Cabri for its laundry division because he knew Whirlpool’s trade secrets and said it would be impossible for him to perform his new role without misusing them.

Wallach dismissed the trade-secret claims Thursday, rejecting Whirlpool’s argument that the Delaware court could hear them based on a forum-selection clause in a company agreement with Cabri. The agreement, which relates to an incentive plan, is not related to the trade-secret claims, Wallach said.

The court gave Whirlpool a chance to refile the claims, though it said there was an “absence of any other facts” to support a jurisdiction finding.

Whirlpool’s claim that Cabri was required to repay over $400,000 in incentives under the agreement survived Cabri’s motion to dismiss. Wallach rejected Cabri’s argument that the dispute should be heard in Italy.

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