Medford Pharmacy Sued In Trade Secrets Lawsuit 

Inside a pharmacy.jpg

A Medford pharmacy faces a trade secrets lawsuit that alleges the owner steered patients and prescriptions from his former employer. 

Genoa Healthcare filed a federal lawsuit last week in Eugene against Dane Fickes and his company, Eden Healthcare, alleging Fickes violated the contract he signed while at Genoa Healthcare that agreed he would not solicit Genoa’s patients for another company or use its proprietary information, including customer data. 

Genoa is an affiliate of UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest provider of behavioral health and other complex and chronic health conditions in the United States. Genoa has nearly 1 million patients and operates pharmacies across the U.S., including in Medford. Fickes served as the site manager of Genoa’s Medford pharmacy before leaving in September to run a competing pharmacy he started, the lawsuit alleges. 

Fickes and his company breached a proprietary interest protection agreement with Genea, breached Fickes’ duty of loyalty to Genoa and violated the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, according to the suit. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges Fickes promised in a written confidentiality agreement to keep Genoa’s proprietary and trade secret information private and not compete with Genoa or solicit business from any of Genoa’s customers.

Fickes and Eden Healthcare did not respond to a request for comment, nor have they responded in court to the allegations.

As Genoa’s site manager, Fickes “managed Genoa’s Medford pharmacy and had intimate knowledge of Genoa’s pharmacy operations, including, but not limited to, its product and marketing plans, business strategies and plans, financial and pricing information, customer, supplier, and provider lists and information,” the lawsuit said.

While still employed at Genoa, Fickes formed Eden and hired one of Genoa’s per diem pharmacists to work for his new company, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also alleges Fickes “improperly and unlawfully accessed and used Genoa’s confidential customer information to induce more than twenty Genoa prescription drug customers to transfer their business to Eden.”

The events took place this past summer, when Fickes and Eden transferred more than 100 prescriptions from the Genoa pharmacy to Eden, the lawsuit said, alleging this caused “direct and continuing harm to Genoa’s revenue, customer relationships and business interests.” 

The lawsuit doesn’t give a dollar amount for how much money Genoa allegedly lost, but seeks past and future damages. 

Pennsylvania-based Genoa’s  Medford location has a customer base in the Jackson County area, the lawsuit said. UnitedHealth acquired Genoa in October 2018 and combined Genoa’s operations with its pharmacy services division. In Medford, Genoa operates a pharmacy in leased space at the Options for Southern Oregon-Medford health clinic.

Most, but not all, of Genoa’s patients are Options patients as well, the lawsuit said.

Genoa hired Fickes as the pharmacy site manager in July 2019, and he oversaw customer service, filled new prescriptions and refills, ordered medication and communicated with providers, the lawsuit said. 

During that time, Zach Aalberg, who is not a defendant in the case, worked at Genoa as a pharmacist. In December 2020, when they both still worked at Genoa, Fickes filed incorporation papers for Eden Healthcare with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, the lawsuit said.

Aalberg became Eden’s pharmacist-in-charge, while at the same time working part-time at Genoa, the lawsuit said.

On Aug. 13, Fickes gave Genoa notice that he was planning to step down as full-time site manager of the pharmacy and requested to remain employed there on a part-time basis, the lawsuit said. Fickes stayed with the company until Sept. 13 as the new site manager started, the lawsuit said. 

On Aug. 16, three days after Fickes gave notice, Genoa’s new site manager discovered prescriptions were “suddenly flowing from Genoa to Eden at an alarming clip,” the lawsuit said. Most of the transfers were made by and between Fickes and Aalberg, the lawsuit alleges.

From July 27 to Aug. 16 Genoa found at least 134 prescriptions transferred from Genoa Pharmacy to Eden, the lawsuit said. That figure represented nearly 50% of Genoa’s prescription volume from patients who got care from providers other than the Options clinic where Genoa leases space.

The prescriptions represented the loss of more than 20 individual customers, the lawsuit said.

“On information and belief, defendants could not possibly have transferred such a large volume of prescriptions away from the Genoa Pharmacy without improperly and unlawfully accessing and using Genoa’s and its affiliates’ confidential customer information,” it stated. “On information and belief, Fickes and/or Aalberg working at Fickes’ direction, unlawfully abused their access to Genoa’s and its affiliates’ confidential customer prescription and contact information for Fickes and Eden’s financial benefit.”

By doing this, Fickes breached his confidentiality agreement with his former employer, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit estimates that past and future losses exceed $100,000. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial to determine the exact amount of damages. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to stop Fickes and Eden from using Genoa’s proprietary information to solicit customers. 

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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