Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Co. v. Fieldwood Energy III, L.L.C.
In this case, Fieldwood Energy LLC, and its affiliates, who were previously among the largest oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 due to declining oil prices, the COVID–19 pandemic, and billions of dollars in decommissioning obligations. In the ensuing reorganization plan, some companies, referred to as the "Sureties", who had issued surety bonds to the debtors, were stripped of their subrogation rights. The Sureties appealed this loss in district court, which held their appeal to be statutorily and equitably moot. The Sureties appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, contending that a recent Supreme Court decision altered the landscape around statutory mootness and that the district court treated Section 363(m) as jurisdictional. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, concluding that the Supreme Court’s recent decision did not change the application of Section 363(m) in this case, the district court did not treat the statute as jurisdictional, and the Sureties’ failure to obtain a stay was fatal to their challenge of the bankruptcy sale. The court also determined that the provisions stripping the Sureties of their subrogation rights were integral to the sale of the Debtors’ assets, making the challenge on appeal statutorily moot. View "Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Co. v. Fieldwood Energy III, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Palkon v. Maffei
In the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, the plaintiffs Dennis Palkon and Herbert Williamson, shareholders of TripAdvisor, Inc. and Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the directors of the companies. The directors had resolved to convert the companies from Delaware corporations into Nevada corporations, a decision approved by controlling stockholder Gregory B. Maffei. The plaintiffs argued that Nevada law offers fewer litigation rights to stockholders and provides greater litigation protections to fiduciaries, alleging that the directors and Maffei approved the conversion to secure these protections for themselves.The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The court denied the motion except regarding the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief. The court held that the conversion constituted a self-interested transaction effectuated by a stockholder controller, and conferred a non-ratable benefit on the stockholder controller and the directors, triggering entire fairness review.The court found it reasonably conceivable that the conversion was not substantively fair, as the stockholders would hold a lesser set of litigation rights after the conversion. It also found it reasonably conceivable that the conversion was not procedurally fair, as the stockholder controller and the board did not implement any procedural protections. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had stated a claim on which relief can be granted. However, the court stated that it would not enjoin the companies from leaving Delaware, as other remedies, including money damages, could be adequate. View "Palkon v. Maffei" on Justia Law
Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A.
In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
PREMIER PEDIATRIC PROVIDERS, LLC v. KENNESAW PEDIATRICS, P.C.
In the case before the Supreme Court of Georgia, Premier Pediatric Providers, LLC was sued by Kennesaw Pediatrics, P.C. for access to its business records. The lower court granted Kennesaw Pediatrics summary judgment, which Premier appealed. Under state law, Premier had 30 days to file the hearing transcript as part of the appeal record, which it failed to do. Months later, Kennesaw Pediatrics moved to dismiss the appeal citing Premier's inexcusable and unreasonable delay in filing the transcript. Premier countered by filing the transcript and explaining that it had mistakenly believed the transcript was filed shortly after the notice of appeal. The trial court found the delay not inexcusable and denied Kennesaw Pediatrics' motion to dismiss. However, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's order and dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court of Georgia granted review to clarify the standard for appellate review of a trial court’s decision whether to dismiss an appeal under state law and to assess whether the Court of Appeals correctly applied the statute.The Supreme Court of Georgia vacated in part and reversed in part the Court of Appeals’ decision. The court held that the Court of Appeals correctly noted that the trial court’s order was subject to review for abuse of discretion. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals' conclusion that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Kennesaw Pediatrics’s motion to dismiss the appeal. The Supreme Court also clarified that an appellate court may not dismiss an appeal based on the failure to timely file a transcript. Instead, the statute gives the trial court discretion to decide whether to dismiss an appeal. View "PREMIER PEDIATRIC PROVIDERS, LLC v. KENNESAW PEDIATRICS, P.C." on Justia Law
Sykes v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC
In this case from the Supreme Court of Alabama, the court held that the Majestic Mississippi, LLC ("Majestic") and Linda Parks did not owe any duty of care to the passengers on a charter bus that crashed en route to Majestic's casino. The bus was chartered by Linda Parks, a resident of Huntsville, to transport herself, family members, friends, and acquaintances from Huntsville and Decatur to the casino. The bus was owned by Teague VIP Express, LLC, a separate entity. As a result of the accident, Betty Russell, an occupant of the bus, was killed, and other occupants, including Joseph J. Sullivan and Rachel W. Mastin, were injured. Felecia Sykes, as administrator of the estate of Russell, and Sullivan and Mastin, sued Majestic and Parks on various theories of negligence and wantonness.The court found that Majestic did not have a duty to provide accurate weather information to the passengers. The court also found that Majestic did not have a duty to conduct due diligence on the bus company before allowing it to transport patrons to its casino. Moreover, Parks did not have a duty to ensure the safety of the bus passengers. The court further held that no joint venture existed between Majestic, Parks, and Teague VIP Express.Thus, the court affirmed the lower court's decision granting summary judgments in favor of Majestic and Parks. View "Sykes v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law
Societe Financial, LLC v. MJ Corporation
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, MJ Corporation, the owner of an automated teller machine (ATM), sued Societe Financial, LLC, an ATM processor, and its owner, James Dainis, for breach of contract, conversion, and for piercing the corporate veil. MJ Corp. alleged that it had not been receiving its full share of transaction fees and reimbursement for vault cash dispensed by the ATM as per their agreement.The court reversed summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and piercing the corporate veil, as the processor presented genuine issues of material fact pertaining to those claims. The court held that while MJ Corp. presented admissible evidence of an implied contract and breach of the same, Dainis's affidavit raised a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the damages, thus barring summary judgment on the breach of contract claim.The court affirmed the superior court’s decision to grant summary judgment on the conversion claim. It found that MJ Corp. satisfied its prima facie burden for summary judgment, and Societe's evidence was too conclusory to present a genuine dispute of material fact regarding conversion.Regarding the claim to pierce the corporate veil, the court found that there was insufficient evidence on summary judgment to hold Dainis personally liable or to pierce the corporate veils of Societe's subsidiary company and another company owned by Dainis. The case was remanded for further proceedings in line with the court's opinion. View "Societe Financial, LLC v. MJ Corporation" on Justia Law
Baker v. Duffus
In this case, Lee Baker and Kenneth Duffus were partners in a real estate development company, Harvest Properties, LLC. Baker was accused of defrauding the company, leading to a lawsuit from the company's members for defaulting on a loan. Duffus cross-claimed against Baker, alleging Baker had violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA). Baker argued that the UTPA did not apply since his conduct was part of a real estate transaction and was within the company's internal operations. The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska rejected Baker's arguments and affirmed the superior court's ruling. The court held that Baker's fraudulent actions were not part of a real estate transaction because they did not involve the actual transfer of an interest in real property. Instead, they interfered with the company's ability to realize larger, future real estate transactions. The court also held that the UTPA applies even when a party has a fiduciary relationship with a business entity if the parties also engage in arms-length commercial transactions. Baker's provision of services through his separate corporation was considered such an arms-length transaction. View "Baker v. Duffus" on Justia Law
Lasseter v. AWH-BP Jackson Hotel, LLC
In this case heard by the Supreme Court of Mississippi, the plaintiff, Samuel Lasseter, sustained injuries when he tripped and fell at the Jackson Hilton Hotel. He claimed that a dangerous defect in the flooring caused his fall. The hotel moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Lasseter then filed a motion to amend the order granting summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Lasseter appealed these decisions.In this case, the court found Lasseter to be an invitee, someone who enters the premises at the invitation of the owner for mutual benefit. Business owners owe a duty to invitees to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of dangerous conditions not readily apparent to the invitee. However, the court noted that undamaged common architectural conditions such as thresholds are not considered dangerous conditions.To prevail, Lasseter needed to show that either a negligent act of the defendant caused his injury, that the defendant had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to warn him, or that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount of time to impute constructive knowledge to the defendant. Lasseter failed to provide sufficient evidence for any of these elements. His claim that the strip was buckled before his fall was unsupported by admissible evidence, and he was unable to show that the hotel had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition.Therefore, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decisions, both granting the hotel's motion for summary judgment and denying Lasseter's motion to alter or amend the order granting summary judgment. View "Lasseter v. AWH-BP Jackson Hotel, LLC" on Justia Law
Shaw v. Restoration Hardware
In a dispute between Tara Shaw and Tara Shaw Designs, Ltd. (collectively, "Shaw") and Restoration Hardware ("RH"), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's dismissal of Shaw's claims. Shaw, a furniture designer, had entered into a contract with RH for the sale and licensing of certain furniture designs. However, Shaw alleged that RH breached an oral agreement by using Shaw's artisans to produce items not part of their licensing agreement without seeking Shaw's permission and providing additional compensation.Shaw brought claims of breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and unjust enrichment against RH. However, the district court dismissed these claims and denied Shaw's motions to reconsider and amend the complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed these decisions.Regarding the breach of contract claim, the court stated that the alleged oral agreement was unenforceable because it left key terms for future negotiation, making it an "agreement to agree" which is not enforceable under Louisiana law.The court dismissed Shaw's detrimental reliance claim since Shaw failed to provide any evidence of damages or detriment due to their reliance on RH's alleged promise. The only detriment Shaw suffered was an opportunity to negotiate compensation in the future, which the court deemed insufficient for a detrimental reliance claim.The court also dismissed Shaw's unjust enrichment claim. While Shaw argued that the dismissal of their other claims demonstrated a lack of alternative remedies, the court found that Shaw failed to provide evidence of detriment necessary to support an unjust enrichment claim.Lastly, Shaw's motion to further amend the complaint was denied. The court found that Shaw failed to show good cause for amendment and that proposed amendments were futile. View "Shaw v. Restoration Hardware" on Justia Law
Consolidated Rest. Operations, Inc. v Westport Insurance Corp.
The case involves Consolidated Restaurant Operations (CRO), a company that owns and operates dozens of restaurants, and Westport Insurance Corporation (Westport). CRO had an "all-risk" commercial property insurance policy with Westport, which covered "all risks of direct physical loss or damage to insured property." When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing CRO to suspend or substantially curtail its operations due to the presence of the virus in its restaurants and government restrictions on nonessential businesses, CRO sought coverage for the ensuing loss of revenue. Westport denied coverage, stating that the coronavirus did not cause "direct physical loss or damage" to CRO's properties. CRO filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration of Westport's obligations under the policy and damages for breach of contract.The Supreme Court of New York dismissed the complaint, declaring that the policy did not cover CRO's alleged losses. The Appellate Division affirmed this decision, interpreting "direct physical loss or damage" to require a tangible alteration of the property, which CRO had not demonstrated.The case was then brought to the New York Court of Appeals. The court held that "direct physical loss or damage" requires a material alteration or a complete and persistent dispossession of insured property. The presence of the virus in the restaurants and the resulting cessation of in-person dining services did not meet this requirement. The court thus affirmed the lower courts’ dismissal of the complaint. View "Consolidated Rest. Operations, Inc. v Westport Insurance Corp." on Justia Law