A Baltimore advertising and public relations firm has filed a $3 million lawsuit against Black & Decker Corp. and a former employee, accusing the toolmaker of raiding its staff as part of a plan to cut its advertising costs.
In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, Image Dynamics Inc. said that the actions of Towson-based Black & Decker and its former employee inflicted severe financial loss and forced it to merge with another company to survive.
It is seeking $1.5 million in damages from each.
Black & Decker was one of Image Dynamics' principal clients for eight years, representing a third of its business, according to the suit.
In 1995 David P. Olsen was hired by Image Dynamics' chief executive and founder, Phyllis B. Brotman, to serve as a senior account executive responsible for developing public relations and marketing programs for the Black & Decker account.
At the time he was hired, Olsen signed a nonsolicitation agreement that forbids employees from performing any services for any Image Dynamics client for two years after leaving the company, the suit said.
In December 1996, Black & Decker abruptly ended its contract with the public relations agency and Olsen left the agency. Within weeks Black & Decker hired Olsen as its marketing consultant even though it was aware of the terms of his employment agreement with Image Dynamics, the suit said.
As a result, the suit charged, Black & Decker "has caused and is causing significant damage and loss to Image Dynamics. Black & Decker's activities proximately caused Image Dynamics to engage in a merger with another firm."
The suit also alleges Black & Decker hired two other former employees of Image Dynamics in 1996 with the knowledge of their nonsolicitation and noncompetition contracts with the public relations company.
Olsen was not available for comment yesterday. Black & Decker declined to comment.
"We as a matter of policy never comment on matters in litigation," said Barbara Lucas, a Black & Decker spokeswoman.
Image Dynamics merged with Gray, Kirk/VanSant, one of Baltimore's largest ad and public relations houses, in 1997. Brotman became Gray, Kirk's executive vice president.
Pub Date: 8/08/98