Mark Twain may have been right when he said that there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Nonetheless, it’s helpful to consider the statistics from the Annual Statistical Report on Colorado court filings when considering how a court approaches a noncompete or trade secret case.
According to the 2013 annual statistical report for state courts in Colorado, about 45,000 civil cases were filed in district court in Colorado (excluding distraint warrants). Of the 45,000 cases, approximately 300 were characterized as cases seeking “injunctive relief”. Approximately 3,000 were breach of contract cases. It’s hard to say how a noncompete case would be characterized, but it probably would fall within one of these categories.
By comparison, almost 3,000 civil cases were filed involving personal injuries arising out of motor vehicle accidents. Another 1,300 cases were filed involving other personal injury claims. Almost 4,000 cases were filed seeking to seal criminall records.
The District Courts were busy in 2013, however. About 37,000 criminal cases were filed in district court in Colorado in 2013, 34,000 divorce or domestic relations cases and 27,000 juvenile cases.
Most judges will have limited experience with noncompete cases. There just aren’t enough noncompete cases (much less trade secret cases) for judges to remember the law or develop much expertise.
It’s helpful to keep these statistics in mind when you consider the many articles on the internet that suggest that there has been an explosion in the number of noncompete cases nationwide. Many more noncompete cases may be filed but the total number of noncompete cases remains small compared to the other kinds of cases seen and heard by state district courts.
(These statistics don’t represent all the noncompete or trade secret cases pursued in Colorado in 2013. Some employers have elected to use arbitration to resolve disputes with their former employees. Those arbitrations would not be included in the annual statistical report for the courts.)