Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
Sunder Energy, LLC v. Jackson
The Court of Chancery denied Sunder Pros LLC's application for a preliminary injunction against Tyler Jackson because Sunder could not establish a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits and further denied Sunder's application for a preliminary injunction against the remaining defendants for lack of an underlying breach of contract.Jackson, the former head of Sunder's sales who lived in Texas, joined Solar Pros, LLC and resigned from Sunder. Sunder, whose headquarters were in Utah but was a Delaware LLC, brought this suit arguing that Jackson was bound by restrictive covenants (the covenants). The Court of Chancery denied relief, holding (1) the covenants, which were facially unreasonable in their own right, were part of an agreement that could not be enforced against Jackson because the agreement originated in an egregious breach of fiduciary duty; and (2) as to the remaining Defendants, there was no underlying breach of contract, and Defendants did not engage in conduct that could support a claim for tortiously interfering with the covenants as required by Utah law. View "Sunder Energy, LLC v. Jackson" on Justia Law
Cities Management, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Tax Court affirming the assessment of the Commissioner of Revenue assessing tax on an apportioned share of Cities Management, Inc.'s (CMI) income from the sale of the S corporation, holding that the income from the corporation's sale was apportionable business income.CMI, which did business in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and its nonresidential partial owner filed Minnesota tax returns characterizing the sale of CMI's goodwill as income that was not subject to apportionment by the State under Minn. Stat. Ann. 290.17. The Commissioner disagreed and assessed tax on an apportioned share of the corporation's income from the sale. The tax court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that CMI's income did not constitute "nonbusiness" income under section 290.17, subd. 6 and may be constitutionally apportioned as business income. View "Cities Management, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law
K&C Logistics, LLC v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., et al.
K&C Logistics, LLC, brought suit in Madison County, Mississippi Circuit Court against Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., and Daniel Cooper as the result of a vehicle accident that occurred in Nogales, Arizona. The trial court determined that it did not have personal jurisdiction over Old Dominion. K&C Logistics appealed, asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to find that courts in Mississippi had jurisdiction over Old Dominion. The Court was further requested to interpret the Mississippi Business Corporation Act to hold that Old Dominion, a foreign corporation registered to do business in Mississippi, consented to general personal jurisdiction when it registered to do business in the state. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "K&C Logistics, LLC v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co.
Gary Sepanossian, dba G.S. Construction (Sepanossian), individually and as class representative, filed a class action against National Ready Mix Concrete Co., Inc. (Ready Mix), alleging Ready Mix charged its customers an “energy” fee and an “environmental” fee “wholly untethered to any actual cost for ‘energy’ or ‘environmental’ issues” that Ready Mix instead “recognize[s] as profit.” The complaint alleges causes of action for (1) violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) under the fraudulent and unfair business practices prongs; (2) breach of contract; and (3) “unjust enrichment.” After Ready Mix answered the complaint, Sepanossian filed a motion for class certification. The trial court granted class certification but expressed doubts about Sepanossian’s legal claims and invited the parties to present a motion for judgment on the pleadings to address the merits before class notice. The parties agreed to do so, and Ready Mix subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the trial court granted on the UCL and unjust enrichment causes of action. The Second Appellate District reversed because Sepanossian alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action under the UCL but affirmed dismissal of the unjust enrichment cause of action. The court explained that here, Ready Mix customers cannot buy concrete from it while avoiding being charged energy and environmental fees. On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court wrote that it must accept as true Sepanossian’s allegation the fees were unavoidable for customers who wished to purchase concrete from Ready Mix. View "Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co." on Justia Law
Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative shareholder class action complaint in New York State Supreme Court, alleging Maryland state law claims on behalf of himself and all similarly situated preferred stockholders of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (“Cedar”), a New York-based corporation incorporated in Maryland, following its August 2022 merger with Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (“Wheeler”) (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleged Cedar and its leadership breached fiduciary duties owed to, and a contract with, shareholders such as Plaintiff and that Wheeler both aided and abetted the breach and tortiously interfered with the relevant contract. The Defendants collectively removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court remanded the case to state court after Krasner argued that an exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied to his claims. The Second Circuit dismissed Defendants’ appeal and concluded that the “securities-related” exception applies. The court explained that here, the securities created a relationship between Cedar and Plaintiff that gave rise to fiduciary duties on the part of Cedar and the potential for additional claims against those parties who aid and abet Cedar’s breach of those duties. Thus, the aiding and abetting claim—and by the same logic, the tortious interference with contract claim—“seek enforcement of a right that arises from an appropriate instrument.” As such, the securities-related exception applies, and the district court properly remanded the case to state court. View "Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc." on Justia Law
Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc.v. Southern Lift Trucks, LLC
Southern Lift Trucks, LLC ("Southern"), was an Alabama-based, heavy-equipment dealer for Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc. ("Hyundai Construction"). In May 2022, it filed suit against Hyundai Construction and its alleged parent company, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (collectively, "Hyundai") asserting various claims. It also sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Hyundai from, among other things, unlawfully allowing Hyundai's dealers to sell certain equipment in Southern's designated territories or advertising that other dealers are authorized to sell that equipment in Southern's territories. Following a hearing, the circuit court entered an order granting Southern's request for a preliminary injunction. After the circuit court issued its injunction order, Southern learned that another Hyundai dealer had allegedly sold some equipment in one of Southern's territories. As a result, Southern filed a petition seeking a finding of contempt and sanctions against Hyundai. Following a hearing, the circuit court entered an order granting Southern's contempt petition. Hyundai appealed that contempt order on due process grounds. Because Hyundai was not given adequate notice of all the contempt allegations asserted against it before the hearing on those allegations (as required by Rule 70A, Ala. R. Civ. P.), the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the contempt order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc.v. Southern Lift Trucks, LLC" on Justia Law
Luxottica of America, Inc., et al. v. Bruce
Luxottica of America, Inc., Jeremiah Andrews, Jr., and Anthony Pfleger appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Jackie Lee Bruce on Bruce's claims alleging that Andrews and Pfleger, Luxottica employees, defamed him and publicly placed him in a false light by accusing him of shoplifting. Andrews was the manager of the "Sunglass Hut" store at a shopping center in Montgomery. Luxottica owned the store. Andrews was working when Bruce entered the store. Another man, who was known by Andrews to have recently shoplifted from the store, entered the store immediately behind Bruce. Andrews suspected Bruce was acting as the shoplifter's accomplice on this particular occasion. Surveillance video showed Bruce walking back and forth five or six times before walking away from the store. Bruce explained his pacing as simple indecision about whether to visit another store or to instead leave the shopping center. Shortly after Bruce walked away, the shoplifter left the store with sunglasses without paying for them, which Andrews witnessed. Bruce testified that a friend named Orlando had driven Bruce to and from the shopping center and he denied knowing the shoplifter or seeing him steal sunglasses. Andrews reported the incident to Montgomery police and to defendant Pfleger, who was a former police officer and the asset-protection manager for Luxottica responsible for investigating shoplifting. After attempting without success to obtain the assistance of police, Pfleger contacted Central Alabama Crimestoppers, giving the organization photographs of the shoplifter, Bruce, and the shoplifter's other alleged accomplices so that Crimestoppers could make the information public in an attempt to identify the suspects. In addition to photographs, Pfleger provided Crimestoppers with a written synopsis of multiple incidents at the store. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Andrews could not be held liable because, under the McDaniel/Burney rule, he did not publicize any statements about Bruce. And, because Pfleger enjoyed a qualified-privilege defense, he too could not be held liable. The Court surmised the only basis for Luxottica's possible liability was vicarious liability for Andrews's and Pfleger's actions. Because those parties were not liable, neither was Luxottica. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter. View "Luxottica of America, Inc., et al. v. Bruce" on Justia Law
Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al.
Petitioners Insurance Express, LLC ("Insurance Express"), Wayne Taylor, and Julie Singley sought a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate an order staying the underlying action against defendants Lynne Ernest Insurance, LLC ("LEI"), Lynne Ernest, Chynna Ernest, and Deadra Stokley. According to the complaint, Lynne and Stokley were longtime employees of Insurance Express. It alleged that they, while still employed by Insurance Express, entered Insurance Express's office after business hours and, without authorization, made electronic copies of various business records related to Insurance Express's clients and insurance policies. Lynne and Stokley resigned soon after and began employment with LEI, which purportedly had been formed by Lynne and Chynna and was a direct competitor of Insurance Express. Lynne and Stokley, it is alleged, then induced some Insurance Express clients to transfer their policies to LEI. Insurance Express sought injunctive relief to, among other things, prevent defendants from communicating with past or current customers of Insurance Express and to require defendants to return any customer information taken by them. It further sought damages for breach of contract, conversion, intentional interference with business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to the relief they sought. The Court granted their petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order granting a stay. View "Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al.
Plaintiffs Karen Watters and Cheryl Yarbrough appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology ("Alabama Oncology"), and Brian Adler on their claims alleging defamation and wantonness. Plaintiffs were formerly employed by Alabama Oncology. In August 2019, an anonymous letter was delivered to various physicians at several Alabama Oncology locations. The letter alleged that there had been illegal and unethical behavior by four staff members, two of whom were plaintiffs, and that there was "a massive lawsuit brewing." The letter also warned that an attorney would be contacting Alabama Oncology regarding a class-action lawsuit. In response to the letter, Alabama Oncology's executive director, Chris Barnes, contacted Alabama Oncology's outside legal counsel, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP ("Bradley Arant") for advice on responding to the letter and preparing for the threatened litigation. Bradley Arant began conducting an internal investigation regarding the allegations in the anonymous letter. Ultimately, after the conclusion of the internal investigation, Alabama Oncology terminated plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs sued Alabama Oncology, and certain executive staff, alleging that their employment had been wrongfully terminated based on the executives' conspiracy to defame the plaintiffs and the results of what they alleged was a "sham investigation." The Alabama Supreme Court found that plaintiffs' "bare assertion that they satisfied their burden to defeat the summary-judgment motion" was insufficient to warrant reversal; the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al." on Justia Law
Dolgencorp, LLC v. Gilliam
Dolgencorp, LLC, appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Deborah Gilliam. In March 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the parking lot of the Northwood Shopping Center. Freeman lost control of the vehicle, ran over a six-inch curb, crossed a sidewalk, and crashed through the storefront of a Dollar General store, striking Gilliam -- a customer of the store. Gilliam sustained serious and permanent injuries. According to an Alabama Uniform Traffic Crash Report, Freeman reported that, immediately before the accident, she had been traveling across the shopping center parking lot when the vehicle's steering wheel began to shake, the vehicle jerked to the left, and the vehicle's brakes failed. The traffic report also indicated that witnesses had observed Freeman's vehicle traveling across the parking lot at a "high rate of speed." The traffic report listed the speed limit in the parking lot at 15 miles per hour; it was estimated that Freeman's vehicle had been traveling approximately 33-34 miles per hour when it collided with the storefront. Gilliam filed suit against, among others, Dolgencorp, which owned the Dollar General store, alleging that Dolgencorp had been negligent and wanton in failing to erect barriers such as bollards outside the store's entrance, which, she claimed, could have prevented Freeman's vehicle from crashing into the storefront and injuring her. Dolgencorp moved for a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that Gilliam's claims were precluded as a matter of law. The Alabama Supreme Court concurred with the company, finding Gilliam's negligence claim failed as a matter of law. It therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Dolgencorp. View "Dolgencorp, LLC v. Gilliam" on Justia Law