Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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Jacked Up and Sara Lee signed a licensing agreement whereby Sara Lee would produce and sell energy drinks developed by Jacked Up. Sara Lee sold its beverage division to the J.M. Smucker Company and Smucker decided not to assume Sara Lee's licensing agreement. After Sara Lee formally terminated the agreement, Jacked Up filed suit against Sara Lee, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and fraudulent inducement. Jacked Up joined claims against Smucker for, among other things, tortious interference with a contract and trade secret misappropriation. The district court granted summary judgment against Jacked Up on all claims. In regard to claims against Sara Lee, the court reversed the district court's conclusion that Section 14(b) of the agreement unambiguously permitted Sara Lee to terminate the licensing agreement at will; there are genuine disputes about whether Sara Lee breached the contract and whether Jacked Up performed under the contract, and thus the court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Sara Lee on Jacked Up's breach of contract claim; the court affirmed as to the breach of fiduciary claim because Jacked Up failed to point to sufficient evidence that would support finding a fiduciary relationship between the parties; the court reversed as to the fraud and fraudulent inducement claim because, at the very least, there is a genuine dispute of fact as to whether Jacked Up's reliance on Sara Lee's representations was justifiable. In regard to claims against Smucker, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Smucker on the tortious interference claim; affirmed as to the trade secret misappropriation claim; affirmed the denial of Jacked Up's Rule 56(d) motion for a continuance; and the court left it to the district court to determine whether Jacked Up has put forth sufficient evidence of damages. View "Jacked Up, LLC v. Sara Lee Corp." on Justia Law

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A subsidiary company brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment against its parent companies, challenging three management agreements by which the parent companies controlled, managed, and participated in the affairs of the subsidiary. The subsidiary argued that two clauses in the agreements were unconscionable because one stated that the parent companies could never be liable to the subsidiary company and the other required the subsidiary to indemnify the parent companies for all legal and liability costs. The circuit court declared that the two clauses at issue were unconscionable and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the two challenged clauses were unconscionable because the clauses were oppressive and unfair. View "Blackrock Capital Investment Corp. v. Fish" on Justia Law

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Police officer Dwayne Runnels suffered serious injuries after he was shot by Demetrious Martin. Martin, a convicted felon who could not legally purchase or possess a firearm, received the firearm by Tarus Blackburn, who made a “straw purchase” for the firearm from KS&E Sports. Runnels filed a complaint against KS&E; Blackburn; and Edward Ellis, a KS&E officer, director, and shareholder. KS&E and Ellis moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Ind. Code 34-12-3-3(2) granted them immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Runnel’s negligence, piercing-the-corporate-veil, and civil-conspiracy claims, which demand only money damages, must be dismissed because section 34-12-3-3(2) functions as a limited immunity statute that insulates KS&E from suits for “recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm…by a third party”; (2) the statute does not immunize KS&E from Runnel’s public-nuisance claim seeking equitable relief; and (3) the statute is not preempted by federal law and does not violate either the state or federal Constitution. View "KS&E Sports v. Runnels" on Justia Law

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Rocky Mountain Retail Management, LLC, d/b/a Rocky Mountain High, filed an application for a license to operate a medical marijuana center in the City of Northglenn. The Northglenn City Council, acting as the City’s medical marijuana local licensing authority, denied Rocky Mountain’s application after receiving evidence at two public hearings. Rocky Mountain sought judicial review of the City’s decision in the district court, arguing that the denial was not based on substantial evidence in the record and was therefore arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. Rocky Mountain also asked the district court to declare certain licensing provisions of the Northglenn City Code unconstitutionally vague, including section 18-14-7(h), which sets forth factors a local licensing authority may consider before approving or denying a medical marijuana center license. The district court ruled that section 18-14-7(h) was unconstitutionally vague, and that the City’s denial of the license in reliance on that invalid provision was arbitrary and capricious. The City appealed. Because the phrase “number, type, and availability” in section 18-14-7(h) provided sufficient notice to applicants and reasonably constrained the exercise of the City’s discretion, the Colorado Supreme Court held section 18-14-7(h) was not void for vagueness. Furthermore, the Court held that the City’s decision to deny Rocky Mountain’s license application was supported by substantial evidence in the record, and therefore was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Rocky MountaIn Retail Mgmt. v. City of Northglenn" on Justia Law

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In July 2010, the City and County of Denver issued nine Notices of Final Determination, Assessment and Demand for Payment against various online travel companies: Expedia, Inc.; Hotels.com LP; Hotwire, Inc.; Orbitz, LLC; Trip Network, Inc.; Priceline.com Incorporated; Travelweb, LLC; Site59.com, LLC; and Travelocity.com LP. The Notices claimed unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest due according to the city lodger’s tax article, for the period from January 2001 through April 2010, totaling over $40 million. These online companies filed nearly identical protests, requesting hearings before a Denver Department of Finance hearing officer, and the protests were consolidated by stipulation. Denver petitioned for review of the court of appeals opinion reversing the judgment of the district court and remanding with directions to vacate the subject tax assessments against respondent online travel companies (“OTCs”). The district court had largely upheld the hearing officer’s denial of protests. Unlike the hearing officer and district court, the court of appeals concluded that the city lodger’s tax article was at least ambiguous with regard to both the purchase price paid or charged for lodging, upon which the tax is to be levied, and the status of the OTCs as vendors, upon which the ordinance imposes the responsibility to collect the tax and remit it to the city; and the intermediate appellate court considered itself obligated to resolve all ambiguities in the lodger’s tax article, being a tax statute, in favor of the OTCs. The Colorado Supreme Court found the “fair and reasonable interpretation” of Denver’s lodger’s tax article was that it imposed a duty on the OTCs to collect and remit the prescribed tax on the purchase price of any lodging they sell, to include not only the amount they have contracted with the hotel to charge and return but also the amount of their markup. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore reversed, and the matter was remanded for consideration of the remaining issues raised on appeal by the parties. View "City & Cty. of Denver v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law

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Andrew Barnwell appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of CLP Corporation ("CLP"). CLP owned and operated a McDonald's fast-food restaurant. In 2013, Barnwell visited the restaurant. Barnwell stated that after he entered the restaurant, he went straight to the restroom to wash his hands. Upon exiting the restroom, Barnwell alleged he slipped and fell, and complained of leg and back pain shortly thereafter. Barnwell sued CLP, asserting a claim of negligence. After a review of the facts entered in the trial court record, the Supreme Court held the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of CLP. "CLP failed to present substantial evidence supporting its affirmative defense that the [floor's] condition that allegedly caused Barnwell to slip and fall was an open and obvious danger." View "Barnwell v. CLP Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, shareholders of ATP, filed a securities class action concerning ATP's collapse into bankruptcy. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, each of whom was an officer or director of ATP, misrepresented the production of Well 941 #4, ATP's liquidity and whether the company had the available funds to complete the Clipper pipeline, and the true reason that Matt McCarroll resigned as CEO of ATP. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that, viewing plaintiffs' allegations as a whole, plaintiffs failed adequately to allege scienter with regard to Defendant Reese's statements; plaintiffs' allegations of scienter as to ATP's liquidity and the Clipper project failed as a matter of law; and there was no basis for the court to conclude that Defendants Bulmahn and Reese knew or were reckless in not knowing McCarroll's true reasons for resigning. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Neiman v. Bulmahn" on Justia Law

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Movant-Appellee Nabors Drilling USA, L.P. filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. That filing triggered the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(1), which generally applied to protect a debtor after it has filed for bankruptcy protection. The question presented in this case was whether that stay applied to a lawsuit filed by appellant-plaintiff Jeremy Porter, who has asserted a claim under California’s Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”). Porter contended the exception established in 11 U.S.C. 362(b)(4) applied to exempt his PAGA claim from the automatic stay. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the exception does not apply to a claim brought by a private party under PAGA, and therefore granted Nabors’s motion to recognize the automatic stay. View "Porter v. Nabors Drilling USA, L.P." on Justia Law

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Appellants and Grady Reed were shareholders in a closely held corporation. In a 2010 complaint, Reed alleged that Appellants had breached the shareholders’ agreement and demanded relief in the form of money damages. After a jury trial, Judge Richard Ferenc granted Reed’s motion for a directed verdict and awarded him money damages, apportioning the liability among Appellants in proportion to their shares in the corporation. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred by treating the complaint as an action for money damages when the only available remedy was specific performance. On remand, Judge Ferenc concluded that Appellants had no right to a jury trial because Reed’s predominant claim for relief was equitable in nature. Appellants sought a writ of prohibition arguing that Judge Ferenc’s exercise of judicial power was unauthorized by law and that they did not have an adequate remedy by way of appeal from his adverse rulings. The court of appeals granted Judge Ferenc’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to establish their entitlement to a writ of prohibition. View "State ex rel. Samarghandi v. Ferenc" on Justia Law

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T.J. Rodgers served on Cypress Semiconductor Corporation a demand to inspect certain books and records under 8 Del. C. 220. Rodgers founded Cypress, served as its president and CEO for thirty-four years, and beneficially owned approximately 2.35 percent of Cypress’ outstanding common stock. Rodgers asserted that his primary purpose for seeking inspection of the demanded materials was to investigate possible mismanagement. Cypress agreed to provide Rodgers certain requested materials but otherwise denied the demand. Rodgers then filed a complaint to compel the production of the books and records requested in his demand. The Court of Chancery entered judgment in Rodgers’ favor, holding that Rodgers established a proper purpose for his demand. View "T.J. Rodgers v. Cypress Semiconductor Corp." on Justia Law