Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont
In 2012, Bishop Lawrence sought to disaffiliate his South Carolina-based diocese from the Episcopal “Mother Church”. Some parishes followed suit. The Mother Church purported to remove Lawrence and selected a new bishop. The Disassociated Diocese and Parishes sued the Mother Church to clarify their property rights in diocesan. The Mother Church filed counterclaims and separately filed trademark and false-advertising claims. Both cases are ongoing.The Church Insurance Company, wholly owned by the Church Pension Fund, is a freestanding nonprofit affiliated with the Mother Church. Captive insurance companies may only cover the risks of their parent companies and related entities. Before the schism, the Company issued a Diocesan Program Master Policy, listing as “named insured” the Episcopal diocese and listing 56 participant parishes, including the now-Disassociated Parishes, in its declarations. Each parish has a separate, individualized insurance policy and paid premiums directly to the Company. The policies provide liability coverage for injuries arising out of “infringement of copyright, title, slogan, trademark, or trade name” and include a broad duty to defend. The Company has reimbursed the Disassociated Parishes’ defense costs in connection with both lawsuits.The Associated Diocese sued the Company, alleging breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of that suit for lack of standing. The Company has not strayed beyond its limitations as a captive insurer or breached its obligations under the policies, so there is no injury traceable to such conduct. View "Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont" on Justia Law
Lujan Grisham v. Romero
The issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on the executive branch’s authority to impose business restrictions during a pandemic. Specifically, the Court was asked to address: (1) whether Petitioners were authorized to restrict or close businesses when necessary for the protection of public health; and (2) whether the renewed temporary closure of indoor dining at restaurants and breweries, mandated by a July 13, 2020, emergency public health order (July Order), was arbitrary and capricious. With respect to the first question the Supreme Court held, consistent with its opinion in Grisham v. Reeb, 2020-NMSC-___, (S-1-SC-38336, Nov. 5, 2020), that Petitioners were so authorized. With respect to the second question, the Court held that the July Order’s temporary closure of indoor dining was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Lujan Grisham v. Romero" on Justia Law
Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Macias
In 2014, ALADS filed suit against defendants for breaches of their fiduciary duty to ALADS as members of its board of directors. ALADS obtained a temporary restraining order requiring the return of $100,000, and several weeks later a preliminary injunction preventing Defendant Macias from claiming to be a director. In 2018, the trial court entered judgment for ALADS, awarding damages sustained by ALADS and a permanent injunction, but found ALADS did not have standing to recover monetary compensation for its members. Afterwards, ALADs sought cost-of-proof sanctions, which the trial court denied. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court did not err in its conclusion that defendants breached their fiduciary duties to ALADS, or in its award of damages for harm to ALADS (except in one very minor respect), or in its award of a permanent injunction. However, the trial court did err when it concluded that ALADS did not have standing to seek the $7.8 million in damages on behalf of its members. The court explained that ALADS proved those damages without objection from defendants and had standing to do so. The court further concluded that ALADS was entitled to cost-of-proof sanctions. Accordingly, the court amended the judgment to include the $7.8 million in damages to ALADS's members, affirmed the judgment as amended, and remanded for the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of cost-of-proof sanctions. View "Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Macias" on Justia Law
Ex parte Edward Wrenn & David Wrenn.
Edward Wrenn ("Edward") and David Wrenn ("David") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate an order requiring Edward and David to disclose their personal income-tax returns to plaintiff Jeffrey Wright, and to enter a protective order shielding the tax returns from production. Wright alleged he contracted with A-1 Exterminating Company, Inc. ("A-1 Exterminating"), for periodic termite treatments of his house. Over the course of several decades of treatments, Wright says, A-1 Exterminating used a "watered-down pesticide so weak that it may only kill ants and 'maybe' spiders." A-1 Exterminating allegedly concealed this practice from him. As a result, Wright contended his house was infected with and damaged by termites. Wright sued Edward, David, A-1 Exterminating, A-1 Insulating Company, Inc., and Wrenn Enterprises, Inc., alleging breach of warranty, breach of contract, negligence and wantonness. Wright sought to represent a class consisting of himself and other A-1 Exterminating customers allegedly harmed by defendants' actions. In support of his request to certify a class, Wright alleged that a "limited fund" existed that would support a class action under Rule 23(b)(1)(B), Ala. R. Civ. P. The Supreme Court held that for tax returns to be discoverable, they must be highly relevant, the litigant seeking their disclosure must show a compelling need for them, and their disclosure must be clearly required in the interests of justice, and that those standards have not been met in this case. Accordingly, the Court granted the petition and issued the writ to direct the trial court vacate its order requiring disclosure of the tax records. View "Ex parte Edward Wrenn & David Wrenn." on Justia Law
Monteglongo v. Abrea
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Defendants' motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 27.001-.011, as untimely, holding that because Plaintiff's amended petition in this case asserted new legal claims, Defendants' motion to dismiss those claims was timely.In his original petition, Plaintiff asserted claims for deceptive trade practice, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended petition reasserting the same claims, adding new claims for fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract, and alleging the same essential facts alleged in the original petition and requesting the same relief. The trial court denied Defendants' TCPA dismissal motion, concluding that the motion was untimely. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that Defendant's motion to dismiss the new claims was untimely because the amended petition asserted new legal actions and thus triggered new sixty-day period for Defendants to file a motion to dismiss those new claims. View "Monteglongo v. Abrea" on Justia Law
Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases
Plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC) was a subsidiary of nonparty Nissan Motors of North America. NMAC was a specialty lender that loaned money to Nissan automobile dealers. Defendants, cross-complainants and appellants, Michael A. Kahn (Kahn) and his wife Tami L. Kahn, plus a group of now defunct limited liability company auto dealerships they owned, were NMAC borrowers (collectively, “Superior”). This appeal and cross-appeal stemmed from the retrial of Superior’s cross-claims against NMAC. The jury awarded Superior $256.45 million in compensatory and punitive damages based on two promissory fraud theories: negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment. The trial court granted NMAC’s motion for new trial based on juror misconduct, but denied NMAC’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Superior contended NMAC forfeited its right to complain about juror misconduct. It also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s discretionary decision to grant NMAC’s new trial motion. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded NMAC did not forfeit the basis for its new trial motion and substantial evidence supported the court’s juror misconduct findings. And contrary to Superior’s claim, the Court found nothing arbitrary or capricious in its prejudice ruling. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the new trial order. View "Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases" on Justia Law
Pgh. Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking, et al.
Pittsburgh Logistics Systems, Inc. (“PLS”) was a third-party logistics provider that arranged the shipping of its customers’ freight with selected trucking companies. Beemac Trucking (“Beemac”) was a shipping company that conducted non-exclusive business with PLS. In 2010, PLS and Beemac entered into a one-year Motor Carriage Services Contract (“the Contract”), which automatically renewed on a year to year basis until either party terminated it. The Contract contained both a non-solicitation provision and the no-hire provision. In this appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether no-hire, or “no poach,” provisions that were ancillary to a services contract between business entities, were enforceable under the laws of the Commonwealth. While the Contract was in force, Beemac hired four PLS employees. PLS sued Beemac, alleging breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secrets Act. PLS also sued the four former employees, alleging they had breached the non-competition and non-solicitation provisions of their employment contracts. The trial court held the worldwide non-compete clauses in the employees' contracts were “unduly oppressive and cannot be subject to equitable modification.” With respect to the contract between the companies, the trial court held the pertinent no-poach clause was void against public policy. “If additional restrictions to the agreement between employer and employee are rendered unenforceable by a lack of additional consideration, PLS should not be entitled to circumvent that outcome through an agreement with a third party.” Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgments, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pgh. Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking, et al." on Justia Law
Meridian Medical Systems, LLC v. Epix Therapeutics, Inc.
In this business dispute involving several tort claims the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the business and consumer docket dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing the complaint.Plaintiff sued three Delaware corporations asserting aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, and conspiracy. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that all of Plaintiffs claims against Defendants failed. View "Meridian Medical Systems, LLC v. Epix Therapeutics, Inc." on Justia Law
New Nello Operating Co., Inc. v. CompressAir
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court for CompressAir and thus rejected CompressAir's claim that a certain transfer was fraudulent and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for New Nello Operating Company, holding that continuity of ownership between two companies is necessary for an exception to the general rule that, in a typical asset purchase, the buyer acquires the seller's assets but not its liabilities.This case turned on two exceptions to the rule that with an asset purchase the buyer typically does not take on the seller's liabilities - the first of which arises when the acquisition of assets amounts to a de facto merger and the second of which arises when the buyer is a mere continuation for all of the seller's liabilities. At issue was whether New Nello Operating Company was liable for Nello Corporation's debt to CompressAir. The trial court concluded that the strict foreclosure between Old Nello and New Nello was fraudulent, amounted to a de facto merger, and that New Nello was a mere continuation of Old Nello. The court then entered judgment against New Nello. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that continuity of ownership is necessary for the de-facto-merger and mere-continuation exceptions to apply. View "New Nello Operating Co., Inc. v. CompressAir" on Justia Law
Goldgroup Resources v. Dynaresource De Mexico
Respondents-Appellants DynaResource de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. and DynaResource, Inc. (“DynaResources”) appealed the district court’s confirmation of an arbitration award in Applicant-Appellee Goldgroup’s favor. This case involves a protracted dispute over a contract relating to a gold mining operation in Mexico. Goldgroup is a subsidiary of a Canadian company with a portfolio of projects in Mexico. DynaUSA, a Texas-based company, incorporated DynaMexico specifically for the purpose of developing the San Jose de Gracia property in the Sinaloa region of Northern Mexico. In 2006, Goldgroup and DynaResources entered into an Earn In/Option Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) which gave Goldgroup the right to earn up to a 50 percent equity interest in DynaMexico if Goldgroup invested a total of $18 million in four phases over approximately four years. The Option Agreement contained a dispute resolution provision specifying that “[a]ll questions or matters in dispute under this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration . . . in Denver, Colorado under the Rules of the American Arbitration Association (‘AAA’) by a single arbitrator selected by the parties.” The Option Agreement also states that Mexican law applies “in respect to the shares of DynaMexico and the acquisition thereof,” and that venue and jurisdiction for any dispute under the Option Agreement would be in Denver. In 2011, Goldgroup exercised its option, became a 50 percent shareholder in DynaMexico, and appointed two directors. However, before the parties could agree on the fifth director, their relationship broke down due to a dispute over management issues. In 2012, DynaResources filed the first of numerous lawsuits between the parties; Goldgroup defended in part by arguing that DynaResources’s claims were subject to arbitration. Finding no reversible error to the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Goldgroup Resources v. Dynaresource De Mexico" on Justia Law