CHARLESTON - A state nonprofit company has filed a suit against a Huntington corporation seeking more than $2 million in damages, claiming the corporation took confidential information and stole business clients.

Job Squad, which operates a presort mailing operation in Charleston, filed the suit June 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court, against Champion Industries. The suit also names Rhonda Copen, a former project manager at Job Squad, as a defendant.

Job Squad is a company that provides employment opportunities to people with physical, developmental or psychiatric disabilities.

Champion Industries is a national conglomerate with its headquarters in Huntington. It trades on the NASDAQ stock exchange and has places of business all over West Virginia, Kentucky and other states.

Copen worked for Job Squad until March 12, 2008, when she told the company Champion had hired her and promised a salary of $85,000 and a signing bonus of $50,000.

According to the suit, after Copen went to Champion, it was discovered that BB&T stopped using Job Squad's presort mail service and started using Champion's service. Ticketmaster followed several weeks later.

"The only reasonable inference is that Champion's high compensation to Copen, disproportionate to her skill level and education background, was a bounty for delivering the Job Squad secrets she had no right to take, establishing that both Copen and Champion acted deliberately and with malice," the suit says.

Job Squad believes Copen was "holding mail" from some of its most important clients, so that the full daily mail allotments were not being sent.

According to the suit, Job Squad has lost approximately $45,000 in revenue per month.

"The approximate present valuation of the presort mail arm of Job Squad's operation, according to accepted methods, is $2.2 million," the suit says. "Job Squad is entitled to at least this much in damages."

However, the suit says, Job Squad employees have also lost their rehabilitation opportunities, which cannot be replaced with a check.

"Job Squad's valuable rehabilitative role in the State of West Virginia cannot be replaced, and should not be allowed to be replaced, by the 'corporate footprint' of a national conglomerate whose only claim to being a 'Champion' is making itself more powerful," the suit says. "…the state of West Virginia as a whole will suffer irreparable harm if Job Squad's programs are wiped out by corporate monopolists like Champion."

In the three-count suit, Job Squad claims Copen misappropriated trade secrets by disclosing information to Champion without Job Squad's express or implied consent.

Job Squad, through attorney Lisa Kerr, seeks $2.2 million in actual damages, as well as punitive and treble damages.

Attorney Lisa Kerr is representing Job Squad. Ricklin Brown is representing Champion.

The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-1123

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