Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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Lawler Manufacturing Co., Inc., appealed an order requiring Chris Lawler, president of Lawler Manufacturing, among other things, to authorize and give his consent to a pending shipment of goods from China, and to refrain from engaging in conduct that is contrary to the best interest of Lawler Manufacturing. In 2019, Lawler Manufacturing sued Delmas Lawler, a shareholder, vice president, and alleged former employee of Lawler Manufacturing, and Sandra Lawler, an alleged former employee, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, theft, and conspiracy. Delmas moved the court to order Lawler Manufacturing and Chris, as president of Lawler Manufacturing, to continue the business operations of Lawler Manufacturing in the usual and customary manner in which business affairs had been conducted before the litigation was commenced, which would include authorizing the shipment of an order from China that had been placed earlier. The trial court granted the motion and ordered Chris to act in the best interest of the company. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not have jurisdiction to enter the order. The presiding judge disqualified himself from this case, and no longer had authority to appoint his successor or to enter the order appointing the judge who entered the order requiring Chris Lawler to act in Lawler Manufacturing's best interest. " Therefore, Presiding Judge Woodruff's appointment of Judge Fannin was not a valid judicial appointment, and that order is vacated." View "Lawler Manufacturing Co., Inc. v. Lawler" on Justia Law

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DISH sold its satellite TV service through its own staff plus third parties: “telemarketing vendors”; “full-service retailers” that sold, installed, and serviced satellite gear; and “order-entry retailers” that used phones to sell nationwide. The United States and four states sued DISH and four order-entry retailers. The district court found that the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, 16 C.F.R. 310, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and related state laws. A $280 million penalty was imposed. DISH appealed concerning the extent to which DISH had to coordinate do-not-call lists with and among these retailers or was otherwise responsible for their acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, except for a holding that DISH is liable for “substantially assisting” Star Satellite and its measure of damages; those violations were essentially counted twice. Regardless of the definition of “cause” under the rule, which makes it unlawful for a seller to “cause a telemarketer to engage in” violations, the retailers were DISH's agents, regardless of any contractual disclaimer. They acted directly for DISH, entering orders into DISH’s system; they did not have their own inventory and were not resellers of any kind. The retailers were authorized to sell DISH’s service by phone nationwide; the district court found that DISH knew about these retailers’ wrongful acts, so DISH is liable as the principal. View "United States v. DISH Network L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Rembrandt contracted to supply Rexing with 3,240,000 cage-free eggs every week for a year. Eight months later, Rexing claimed that Rembrandt failed to provide eggs that met the specified quality standards. Rexing sought a declaration that it was excused from accepting any more eggs, and incidental and consequential damages. Rembrandt counterclaimed, seeking damages. The trial court determined that Rexing had unilaterally terminated the contract and that the breach was not excused. Rembrandt was awarded $1,522,302.61 in damages. Rexing voluntarily dismissed its subsequent appeal and filed suit in state court, alleging conversion and deception. Rexing claimed that Rembrandt had refused to return reusable shipping materials, the “EggsCargoSystem,” Rexing had provided. In the first suit, Rexing had sought the value of the EggsCargoSystem as part of the start-up costs that it allegedly incurred in reliance on the agreement. Rembrandt removed the second suit to federal court and argued that the claims were barred by claim-preclusion in light of the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the first suit and that Rexing had improperly split its claims between the two cases. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the second suit. Rexing impermissibly split its claims. Both suits centered around the same controversy. Under Indiana’s doctrine prohibiting claim splitting, a plaintiff cannot bring a new lawsuit based upon the same transaction or occurrence that underlies claims brought in another lawsuit. View "Rexing Quality Eggs v. Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting Jet Midwest and PMC's motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Appellant Ohadi and Woolley from foreclosing on the assets of JMG until the parties conduct an expedited trial on the merits of the underlying fraudulent transfer act. The court held that the district court properly applied the Dataphase factors and did not abuse its discretion in making the reasonable decision to grant the preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo and expedite the trial to further develop the record. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Jet Midwest demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits where there was no dispute that the sale initially contained parts from Jet Midwest's Aircraft and that Jet Midwest had a purchase money interest in the Aircraft; Jet Midwest would suffer irreparable harm if Ohadi and Woolley were allowed to proceed with the foreclosure sale; Ohadi and Woolley's burden is outweighed by the serious potential harm Jet Midwest would face if Ohadi and Woolley conducted a foreclosure sale of its possible interests; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the public interest favored enforcing the injunction to prevent fraud. View "Jet Midwest International Co. v. Ohadi" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning the trial court's award of $3,983,014 in attorney fees the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the award of attorney fees, holding that the "lodestar" reflected a reasonable fee based on the prevailing market rate for the services rendered by Appellees' attorneys, and therefore, the trial court's enhancement to the lodestar was in error. Appellees were awarded a jury verdict against Appellant for compensatory and punitive damages, treble damages, prejudgment interest, and litigation costs and expenses. In determining attorney fees, the trial court established a lodestar - the reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours worked - of $1,991,507. Then court then doubled the attorney fees due to the complexity and length of the case and the "highly favorable outcome" obtained by the attorneys. The court of appeals affirmed the award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellees' attorneys were reasonably compensated, so there should have been no enhancement to the lodestar. View "Phoenix Lighting Group, LLC v. Genlyte Thomas Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant manufactures aloe vera gel, sold under its own brand and as private‐label versions. Suppliers harvest, fillet, and de-pulp aloe vera leaves. The resulting aloe is pasteurized, filtered, treated with preservatives, and dehydrated for shipping. Defendant reconstitutes the dehydrated aloe and adds stabilizers, thickeners, and preservatives to make the product shelf‐stable. The products are 98% aloe gel and 2% other ingredients. Labels describe the product as aloe vera gel that can be used to treat dry, irritated, or sunburned skin. One label calls the product “100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel.” An asterisk leads to information on the back of the label: “Plus stabilizers and preservatives to insure [sic] potency and efficacy.” Each label contains an ingredient list showing aloe juice and other substances. Plaintiffs brought consumer deception claims, alleging that the products did not contain any aloe vera and lacked acemannan, a compound purportedly responsible for the plant’s therapeutic qualities. Discovery showed those allegations to be false. Plaintiffs changed their theory, claiming that the products were degraded and did not contain enough acemannan so that it was misleading to represent them as “100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel,” and to market the therapeutic effects associated with aloe vera. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. There was no evidence that some concentration of acemannan is necessary to call a product aloe or to produce a therapeutic effect, nor evidence that consumers care about acemannan concentration. View "Beardsall v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Project CBD defendants, ProjectCBD.com, website founder Martin Lee, and article author Aaron Cantu, appealed a trial court's order denying their special motion to strike the three causes of action asserted in the second amended complaint. The Project CBD defendants contended the trial court erred in denying their motion because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on their claims. This case arose from the publication of an article regarding the safety of a cannabidiol (CBD) product, Real Scientific Hemp Oil (RSHO), sold by plaintiffs Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MMI) and HempMeds PX, LLC (HempMeds) (jointly the plaintiffs). The plaintiffs contended the article contained false information about RSHO and that the named defendants who were involved in the publication of the article, should be held liable for libel, false light, and unfair competition due to their publication of the article. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in determining that the plaintiffs demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits of their claims. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order and remanded the matter with directions to enter an order granting the Project CBD defendants' anti-SLAPP motion. View "Medical Marijuana, Inc. v. ProjectCBD.com" on Justia Law

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Bullinger Enterprises, LLLP appealed a district court’s judgment dismissing Bullinger Enterprises’ claims against Howard Dahl, Brian Dahl, and Thor Iverson (collectively, the Dahls). Bullinger Enterprises was owned by Michael Bullinger. In 2001, Bullinger Enterprises, Howard Dahl and Brian Dahl each acquired separate interests in the agricultural equipment manufacturing company Wil-Rich. The Dahls also owned Amity Technology, LLC (Amity). Amity manufactured sugar beet harvesters and air drill seeders. During 2010, Howard was seeking an equity investor to help Amity sell air drill seeders, a new product that had not yet achieved significant sales. Because of the common ownership and operational interactions between Amity and Wil-Rich, Howard asked Michael if he would be interested in having Wil-Rich included in a potential deal. Michael agreed; Howard and Thor Iverson later began negotiations with a potential investor, AGCO Corporation (AGCO). In October 2010, Thor emailed Michael a summary of the negotiations he had with AGCO which proposed a joint venture. Following the exchange of ownership, Amity entirely owned Wil-Rich and the prior owners of Wil-Rich owned an interest in Amity. Amity transferred its air drill seeder business to Wil-Rich. The joint venture between Amity and AGCO moved forward with Amity selling 50% of the Wil-Rich stock to AGCO for $30 million. Wil-Rich was then renamed AGCO-Amity JV, LLC, a joint venture owned by Amity and AGCO. By January 2012, Michael became concerned about the AGCO-Amity JV, LCC operations, specifically that the air drill seeder sales were under performing while the Wil-Rich related sales were over performing. In July 2018, Bullinger Enterprises commenced this action alleging claims of breach of fiduciary duties and deceit. All the claims arise from Bullinger Enterprises’ allegation that the Dahls misrepresented to him that AGCO set the value of Wil-Rich at $20 million and AGCO was not willing to value Wil-Rich any higher. Bullinger Enterprises claimed the misrepresentations led to a misallocation of the ownership of Amity following the exchange of the ownership of Wil-Rich for ownership in Amity. Bullinger Enterprises argued the district court erred in concluding its claims accrued no later than the end of March 2012 and, as a result, the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Bullinger Enterprises v. Dahl, et al." on Justia Law

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In 1987, Whitaker opened commodity futures trading accounts that eventually were assigned to Wedbush. Whitaker did not enter into a new customer or security agreement with Wedbush. Wedbush held Whitaker’s funds in customer segregated accounts at BMO Harris, which provided an online portal for Wedbush to process its customers' wire transfers. In December 2014, Wedbush received emailed wire transfer requests purporting to be from Whitaker but actually sent by a hacker. Wedbush completed transfers to a bank in Poland totaling $374,960. Each time, Wedbush sent an acknowledgment to Whitaker’s e-mail account; the hacker apparently intercepted all email communications. Whitaker contacted Wedbush after receiving an account statement containing an incorrect balance. After Wedbush refused Whitaker’s demand for the return of the transferred funds, Whitaker filed suit seeking a refund under the UCC (810 ILCS 5/4A-101). The circuit court rejected the UCC counts, stating that Wedbush had not operated as a “bank” under the UCC definition. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, rejecting an argument that an entity may not qualify as a bank if it does not offer checking services. Courts construe the term “bank” in article 4A liberally to promote the purposes and policies of the UCC. The term “includes some institutions that are not commercial banks” and that “[t]he definition reflects the fact that many financial institutions now perform functions previously restricted to commercial banks, including acting on behalf of customers in funds transfers.” View "Whitaker v. Wedbush Securities, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Delaware Supreme Court in these cases was the validity of a provision in several Delaware corporations’ charters requiring actions arising under the federal Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act” or “1933 Act”) to be filed in a federal court. Blue Apron Holdings, Inc., Roku, Inc., and Stitch Fix, Inc. were all Delaware corporations that launched initial public offerings in 2017. Before filing their registration statements with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), each company adopted a federal-forum provision. Appellee Matthew Sciabacucchi bought shares of each company in its initial public offering or a short time later. He then sought a declaratory judgment in the Court of Chancery that the FFPs were invalid under Delaware law. The Court of Chancery held that the FFPs were invalid because the “constitutive documents of a Delaware corporation cannot bind a plaintiff to a particular forum when the claim does not involve rights or relationships that were established by or under Delaware’s corporate law.” Because the Supreme Court determined such a provision could survive a facial challenge under Delaware law, judgment was reversed. View "Salzberg, et al. v. Sciabacucchi" on Justia Law