Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves AURC III LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, and several Washington and Delaware limited liability companies collectively referred to as Point Ruston. Point Ruston purchased a 97-acre former copper smelter and environmental clean-up site located on the Puget Sound waterfront in Ruston and Tacoma, Washington, for $169,000,000 and developed it in phases. To fund the second phase of development, Point Ruston negotiated a $66 million loan from American United Development Group, which created AURC III LLC to raise and manage funds from foreign investors seeking United States residency. After disbursing the full amount of the loan, AURC filed an amended complaint against Point Ruston, alleging that Point Ruston was delinquent on interest payments in breach of its loan agreement. The superior court ordered Point Ruston and AURC to engage in arbitration as per their loan agreement.The arbitrator issued an interim award only on the amount of current and default interest due and awarded $10,969,015 to AURC. The arbitrator then issued a final award for the same amount, as well as awarding attorney fees and arbitration fees and expenses. In total, Point Ruston was required to pay over $11.4 million. AURC moved to confirm the award and for presentation of judgment. Initially, Point Ruston agreed AURC was “entitled to confirmation of the Award and entry of a Final Judgment” but opposed attaching the arbitrator’s awards to that judgment. Before the court could enter the written confirmation order and judgment, Point Ruston paid the award and filed a motion to dismiss the case as moot because no live dispute remained. After AURC alerted the court that it received the award amount from Point Ruston, the court denied the motion to dismiss. The court entered the confirmation order with the interim and final awards attached as exhibits, as well as a judgment against Point Ruston. AURC filed a full satisfaction of judgment.Point Ruston appealed on two grounds. It challenged (1) the superior court’s denial of the motion to dismiss and (2) the court’s decision to attach the arbitration awards to the confirmation order. Division Two of the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Point Ruston sought review in the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, which was granted.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington held that when a party seeks a confirmation order, RCW 7.04A.220 requires issuance of the order subject to narrow exceptions inapplicable here. Payment of an arbitration award does not render the underlying case moot. The court also held that attaching an arbitrator’s award merely identifies the basis for the confirmation order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "AURC III, LLC v. Point Ruston Phase II, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the death of a patient, Cindy Essex, who visited Samaritan Hospital's emergency room due to severe shoulder pain. The doctors, who were not employees of the hospital but independent contractors, failed to diagnose her necrotizing fasciitis, a severe soft-tissue infection, leading to her death within 24 hours. The estate of Cindy Essex sought to hold Samaritan Hospital liable for the doctors' alleged negligence under theories of nondelegable duty, inherent function, and agency law principles of delegation.The trial court denied the estate's motion for partial summary judgment concerning Samaritan’s potential vicarious liability for the doctors' alleged negligence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision, concluding that ostensible agency is the sole basis for holding a hospital vicariously liable for the negligence of nonemployee physicians.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington reversed the Court of Appeals' decision. The court held that statutes and regulations impose nondelegable duties on hospitals concerning the provision of emergency services. A hospital remains responsible for those nondelegable duties regardless of whether it performs those duties through its own staff or contracts with doctors who are independent contractors. The court also found that the estate provided sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment concerning its corporate negligence claim against Samaritan. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "In re Estate of Essex v. Grant County Public Hospital District No. 1" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the death of Darius Caraway, who overdosed while serving a murder sentence at Whiteville Correctional Facility in Tennessee, operated by CoreCivic, Inc. Caraway's estate, represented by his mother, sued CoreCivic and three of its officials, alleging that they violated Caraway's Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from overdosing. The estate argued that CoreCivic deliberately understaffed the facility, leading to inadequate screening of prison guard applicants, smuggling of illegal drugs, and lack of supervision, which allowed fentanyl to proliferate at Whiteville. The estate claimed that the defendants knew about this proliferation but did nothing about it, leading to Caraway's death by overdose.The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee dismissed the estate’s complaint, stating that the claims were conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct devoid of well-pled factual support. The estate appealed this dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the estate failed to adequately allege that Caraway faced an objectively excessive risk of harm from unfettered access to drugs inside Whiteville. The court also found that the estate failed to sufficiently allege that the defendants knew of a drug problem at Whiteville or that they didn't reasonably respond to the alleged risk. The court concluded that the estate failed to meet the requirements of a failure-to-protect claim under the Eighth Amendment. The court also dismissed the estate's procedural claims, stating that the district court properly treated the motion as one to dismiss and that the estate had forfeited its argument about the district court's failure to issue a scheduling order. View "Caraway v. CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between Amazon and its delivery service partners (DSPs), who are business entities that entered into Delivery Service Program Agreements with Amazon. These agreements contained an arbitration provision, stipulating that disputes arising from the agreements would be resolved by binding arbitration conducted by the American Arbitration Association, rather than in court. The plaintiffs, who are or were DSPs, argued that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) "transportation worker exemption" applied to them, which would exempt them from the FAA's coverage and allow them to bring their dispute to court.The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington rejected the plaintiffs' argument and granted Amazon's motion to compel arbitration, dismissing the case without prejudice. The plaintiffs appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the FAA's "transportation worker exemption" did not extend to business entities or to commercial contracts like the DSP Agreement. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable. The court found that the arbitration agreement contained a delegation provision, which incorporated AAA rules delegating threshold issues to the arbitrator. The court concluded that the delegation provision was between sophisticated parties, incorporated the AAA rules, and therefore must be enforced. Thus, the plaintiffs' remaining unconscionability arguments directed at the arbitration agreement as a whole must be decided by the arbitrator. View "FLI-LO Falcon, LLC V. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves Francis M. Reynolds, who was convicted of three counts of obstruction of a United States Securities and Exchange Commission proceeding and one count of securities fraud. The District Court sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment plus three years of supervised release, ordered him to pay restitution to the victims of his fraud in the amount of $7,551,757, a special assessment of $400, and to forfeit $280,000 to the United States. Reynolds appealed his conviction, but he died while the appeal was pending.Reynolds was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. While the appeal was pending, Reynolds died. The government suggested that the court should either dismiss the appeal as moot or follow the practice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and dismiss the appeal as moot while instructing the District Court to add a notation in the record.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had to decide whether to apply the doctrine of abatement ab initio, which holds that when a criminal defendant dies during the pendency of a direct appeal from his conviction, his death abates not only the appeal but also all proceedings had in the prosecution from its inception. The court decided to apply the doctrine, aligning itself with other federal courts of appeals and its own past decisions. The court dismissed the appeal and remanded the case to the District Court to vacate the convictions and dismiss the indictment. The court also instructed the District Court to vacate the orders of restitution and criminal forfeiture that were imposed in this case, as well as the special assessment. View "United States v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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A group of business associations, including the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas against the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB). The plaintiffs challenged a new Final Rule issued by the CFPB regarding credit card late fees and sought a preliminary injunction against the rule. The plaintiffs requested expedited briefing and review due to the imminent effect of the rule and the substantial compliance it required.The district court, instead of ruling on the motion for a preliminary injunction, considered whether venue was appropriate in the Northern District of Texas and invited the CFPB to file a motion to transfer the case. The CFPB complied, and the district court granted its motion, transferring the case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs then petitioned for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by transferring the case while their appeal was pending and, alternatively, lacked jurisdiction to transfer the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs, stating that the district court acted without jurisdiction. The court explained that once a party properly appeals something a district court has done, in this case, the effective denial of a preliminary injunction, the district court has no jurisdiction to do anything that alters the case’s status. The court clarified that its decision was not about the correctness of the district court’s transfer order but rather about whether the court had jurisdiction to enter it. The court concluded that the district court did not have jurisdiction to transfer the case.The court granted the petition for mandamus, vacated the district court’s transfer order, and ordered the district court to reopen the case. The court also instructed the district court to notify the District of Columbia that its transfer was without jurisdiction and should be disregarded. View "In re: Chamber of Commerce" on Justia Law

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The case involves shareholders of Genius Brands International, Inc., a children's entertainment company, who alleged that the company violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by making fraudulent statements and omissions. The shareholders claimed that Genius concealed its relationship with a stock promoter, PennyStocks.com, misrepresented its relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger, exaggerated the frequency of its show Rainbow Rangers on Nickelodeon Jr., falsely suggested that Disney or Netflix would acquire Genius, and overstated its rights to the works of comic book author Stan Lee.The United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the shareholders' complaint, finding that they failed to adequately allege that Genius's representations were misleading or that they caused the shareholders' losses.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the shareholders adequately alleged that Genius's representations regarding PennyStocks were misleading and that they caused the shareholders' losses with respect to the Rainbow Rangers, Disney/Netflix, and Stan Lee claims. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the claim regarding Genius's relationship with Schwarzenegger, finding that the shareholders did not adequately allege loss causation. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Alavi v. Genius Brands International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tracey Murray and the Estate of Robert Murray filed a lawsuit against Miracorp, Inc., NTTS, Inc., Lane Goebel, and Shane Goebel, alleging both legal and equitable claims based on conduct that took place before 2012. The Murrays claimed that they were shareholders in Miracorp and that the company and its officers had breached fiduciary duties, committed fraud, and unjustly enriched themselves at the Murrays' expense. The Murrays also alleged that Miracorp had converted their property and misappropriated trade secrets.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Miracorp, ruling that the Murrays' claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The court found that the Murrays' injuries were reasonably ascertainable in 2011, and thus, the period for filing a lawsuit had expired. The Murrays appealed this decision.The Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the Murrays' claims were time-barred because their injuries were reasonably ascertainable in 2011. The court held that the Murrays had waited too long to investigate and seek redress for their injuries.The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the lower courts. The court held that the Murrays had a duty to reasonably investigate their suspicions in 2011. The court found that the Murrays did nothing to investigate their suspicions until 2016, which was unreasonable. As a result, the court ruled that the Murrays' claims were barred by the statute of limitations. View "Murray v. Miracorp, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation into potentially anti-competitive practices in the real estate industry by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In November 2020, the DOJ and NAR reached a settlement, and the DOJ sent a letter to NAR stating that it had closed its investigation and that NAR was not required to respond to two outstanding investigative subpoenas. However, in July 2021, the DOJ withdrew the proposed consent judgment, reopened its investigation, and issued a new investigative subpoena. NAR petitioned the district court to set aside the subpoena, arguing that its issuance violated a promise made by the DOJ in the 2020 closing letter. The district court granted NAR’s petition, concluding that the new subpoena was barred by a validly executed settlement agreement.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the district court's decision. The court held that the plain language of the disputed 2020 letter permits the DOJ to reopen its investigation. The court noted that the closing of an investigation does not guarantee that the investigation would stay closed forever. The court also pointed out that NAR gained several benefits from the closing of the DOJ’s pending investigation in 2020, including relief from its obligation to respond to the two outstanding subpoenas. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "National Association of Realtors v. United States" on Justia Law

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A group of individuals, including D&T Partners LLC and ACET Global LLC, alleged that Baymark Partners Management LLC and others attempted to steal the assets and trade secrets of their e-commerce company through shell entities, corrupt lending practices, and a fraudulent bankruptcy. The plaintiffs claimed that Baymark had purchased D&T's assets and then defaulted on its payment obligations. According to the plaintiffs, Baymark replaced the company's management, caused the company to default on its loan payments, and transferred the company's assets to another entity, Windspeed Trading LLC. The plaintiffs alleged that this scheme violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The district court dismissed all of the plaintiffs' claims with prejudice, finding that the plaintiffs were unable to plead a pattern of racketeering activity, a necessary element of a RICO claim.The case was then taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appellate court agreed with the district court, holding that while the complaint alleges coordinated theft, it does not constitute a "pattern" of racketeering conduct sufficient to state a RICO claim. This is because the alleged victims were limited in number, and the scope and nature of the scheme was finite and focused on a singular objective. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "D&T Partners v. Baymark Partners" on Justia Law