Suit against B&D;, worker advances; PR firm, toolmaker argue over documents; Public relations


A lawsuit filed by a Baltimore public relations firm against one of its former employees and Black & Decker Corp. moved a step forward yesterday as the two sides argued over what documents should be provided to lawyers.

The $3 million lawsuit, filed by public relations firm Image Dynamics in August 1998 in Baltimore Circuit Court, contends that the actions of its former employee and the Towson-based toolmaker caused severe financial loss and forced Image Dynamics to merge with another company to survive.

Black & Decker was one of the principal clients of Image Dynamics for eight years and represented a third of its business, according to the suit. Phyllis B. Brotman founded the firm.

Brotman hired David P. Olsen of Columbia in 1995 to be a senior account executive responsible for Black & Decker. According to the suit, Olsen signed a nonsolicitation agreement that forbade him from performing any services for any Image Dynamics client for two years after leaving the company.

A copy of the agreement was filed in court documents. Image Dynamics contends that Black & Decker was aware of Olsen's terms of employment.

In December 1996, Black & Decker ended its contract with Brotman's firm and Olsen left the agency. Court files contain a copy of a Dec. 20, 1996, letter from Brotman to Olsen saying that he was being let go because the company had lost the Black & Decker account.

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 charges.

Image Dynamics -- which has since merged with Gray, Kirk/VanSant, one of Baltimore's largest advertising and public relations houses -- is seeking $1.5 million each from Olsen and Black & Decker.

In the hearing yesterday, Circuit Judge Thomas E. Noel sided with Image Dynamics attorney Scott A. Livingston in granting access to certain files in Olsen's home computer.

After that ruling, Black & Decker attorney John E. McCann Jr. requested that the courtroom be closed to reporters and observers because other disputed documents were of a sensitive nature. Livingston said he did not object, and Noel granted the request.

Both sides are subject to a protective order that bars them from discussing the case. McCann and Livingston declined to comment yesterday on any aspect of the hearing or the case.

The case is expected to go to trial by the middle of next month.

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