A Los Angeles Superior Court jury Thursday ruled that a New Jersey company sabotaged the business operations of a local printing supplies firm. The jury awarded the local company more than $1.5 million in damages.
The verdict upheld a claim by American Technical Supply of Los Angeles, which sued Harold M. Pitman Co. of Secaucus, N.J., for unfair competition and deception. Both companies provide publishers with graphic arts supplies and with film and plates used in the printing process.
The 12-member jury heard Pitman and American Technical accuse each other of competing unfairly for the business of a client they once served simultaneously--Treasure Chest Advertising Co., a Glendora-based publisher of newspaper advertising inserts.
American Technical said in its complaint that it started supplying Treasure Chest's West Coast operations in 1978, and Treasure Chest became its largest customer, generating $5 million worth of business a year. In 1981, American Technical helped Pitman become Treasure Chest's East Coast supplier. The two suppliers split the business geographically, the complaint said.
However, with the help of an American Technical employee--Virginia Moore--Pitman began to disrupt American Technical's relationship with Treasure Chest, finally causing Treasure Chest to drop American Technical as a supplier, the suit said.
Moore, an account representative responsible for keeping Treasure Chest adequately stocked with American Technical supplies, purposely allowed the supply levels to dwindle on occasions in 1984 and 1985, according to the complaint.
American Technical's attorney, Allan Browne, told the jury that Moore was a disgruntled employee who tried to hurt her employer. He said Moore falsely told Treasure Chest that American Technical had not been a cooperative supplier and had difficulties meeting stock orders. Browne said Moore also helped Pitman set up operations in the Los Angeles area.
Treasure Chest ended its relationship with American Technical Aug. 31, 1985--the same day Moore resigned to join Pitman, the complaint said.
Pitman failed to act in good faith and dealt with American Technical unfairly, the jury verdict said. American Technical had sought $3 million in damages but the jury awarded the firm $1,534,100. Pitman executives were not immediately available for comment.