Long & Foster defectors file response to lawsuit

Long & Foster's Grove Avenue office.

Long & Foster’s Grove Avenue office.

A group of local real estate agents who recently left Long & Foster to start their own brokerage is relying on a comparable case in Chesapeake to fend off a lawsuit brought by their former employer.

In a response to the suit Long & Foster filed June 5 alleging breach of contract, the attorney for agents Scott Shaheen, Mahood Fonville, John Martin and Scott Ruth points to a 2011 case also involving Long & Foster in which a judge said provisions in the company’s employment agreements with an agent were “overly broad and unenforceable.”

Those provisions, worded similarly in both cases, prohibited the agents from competing with Long & Foster or soliciting other agents for a year after their departure.

In its suit against the four local agents, who have gone on to form SRMF Real Estate, Long & Foster alleged the group had “successfully” solicited nine of the company’s agents, plotted together to quit simultaneously and utilized their leadership positions to undermine the company’s policies and benefit their new firm.

Clockwise from left: Scott Shaheen, Scott Ruth, Mahood Fonville and John Martin. (SRMF)

Clockwise from left: Scott Shaheen, Scott Ruth, Mahood Fonville and John Martin. (SRMF)

Shaheen, a regional senior vice president for Long & Foster when he left, oversaw 46 offices and 1,500 agents, while Ruth, Martin and Fonville were managing brokers at the company’s Tuckahoe, Short Pump and Strawberry Street offices, respectively.

The response to the suit, filed June 20 in Henrico County Circuit Court, cites the 2011 case and includes a copy of the judge’s order in that case as an exhibit. The firm’s request for injunctive relief in that case was denied.

The response also cites a Supreme Court case in which the court stated: “the law will not provide relief to every disgruntled player in the rough-and-tumble world comprising the competitive marketplace.” It also contends the provisions violate state law by putting a constraint on trade and competition.

The SRMF group asks that the court conduct a hearing and declare the provisions illegal and unenforceable. They are represented by Kevin Martingayle of Virginia Beach law firm Bischoff Martingayle, who also asked that the case be dismissed and filed a motion requiring Long & Foster to specify facts showing wrongdoing by the defendants.

In its June 5 lawsuit, Long & Foster demands a jury trial and seeks an injunction stopping the defendants from soliciting agents and competing with the company for a year. The company also asks for at least $376,000 in damages.

Long & Foster is represented by Thamer E. “Chip” Temple III and J. Buckley Warden IV of downtown law firm DurretteCrump.

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