GROSSI CONSULTING, LLC, et al.,
STERLING CURRENCY GROUP, LLC.
Supreme Court of Georgia.
Decided: January 23, 2012.
Appellants Grossi Consulting Group and its principal, Stefano Grossi (jointly "Grossi"), appeal the grant of an interlocutory injunction in favor of appellees, Sterling Currency Group and its principals, Jim Shaw and Ty Rhame, (jointly "Sterling"), contending the trial court erred by entering an interlocutory injunction that fails to preserve the status quo. Finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion, we affirm.
Sterling Currency Group is a Georgia limited liability corporation engaged in the business of importing and then selling Iraqi currency, the dinar. In 2007, the company's principals met with Grossi Consulting, a company that specialized in web-based marketing strategies, in an effort to create an internet-based sales platform. Sterling ultimately hired Grossi to create the website, dinarbanker.com, and to perform customer service duties for Sterling. The parties' relationship was established through several contracts whereby Grossi agreed to design and manage the website as well as market and advertise dinarbanker.com's business. These contracts provided that Grossi would be paid ten percent of all online sales.
By 2010, the business of dinarbanker.com had dramatically increased, resulting in monthly profits in the millions of dollars. To handle the increased volume, Grossi upgraded the website and established a customer service call center. Despite these improvements, on several occasions in 2010 Grossi was unable to meet the demands of the growing business and the website crashed, severely disrupting Sterling's business. Sterling alleges deficiencies in the website also hampered its ability to create reports necessary to satisfy federal auditing regulations and to efficiently process and ship orders.
Early in 2011, there were discussions between the parties regarding a new contract which would have modified the compensation scheme by which Grossi was paid. At about the same time, Grossi began to demand payments from Sterling for past invoices and sent Sterling a letter threatening to shut down the website if monies were not paid. Shortly thereafter, Stefano and an associate met with Rhame and threatened to take over or destroy the website if invoices totaling over $1 million were not paid immediately. Sterling paid the invoices the next day. Stefano then threatened to find a new "fulfillment company" to supply Sterling's customers if Sterling did not pay Grossi according to its terms.
Sterling filed suit against Grossi in March 2011 seeking a temporary restraining order, interlocutory and permanent injunctions, and damages. The trial court issued an ex parte temporary restraining order directing Grossi to, inter alia, maintain and not transfer, interfere with or dispose of any assets it controlled concerning Sterling Currency Group, including those related to dinarbanker.com. Grossi moved to dissolve the temporary restraining order, and after a hearing, the court left the restraining order in place but added a provision requiring Sterling to continue compensating Grossi according to their written agreements.
A hearing on Sterling's request for an interlocutory injunction was held in April 2011 at which all parties presented evidence and oral argument. The trial court subsequently entered an interlocutory injunction ordering Grossi to transfer to Sterling all assets of the business of dinarbanker.com and ordering Grossi to "immediately refrain from manipulating or destroying any information generated by any asset belonging to or relating to the operation of [the website]." The order further provided that its provisions would last "until the final disposition of this matter on the merits, unless dissolved or superseded earlier by Order of the Court."