Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court in this action alleging breach of contract, conversion, and tortious interference with a business relationship of expectation, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action in his own name. Kim Hawley, the only named plaintiff, brought this action against John Skradski alleging that he purchased a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business from an entity affiliated with Skradski and that, after Hawley ceased operating the business, Skradski began operating the business and converted the business's assets to his use. During trial, an asset purchase agreement was received into evidence showing that the HVAC business was purchased by KNR Capital Corp. and not by Hawley individually. The district court granted Skradksi's motion for a directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence of any of the three theories of recovery. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Hawley failed to prove his standing to bring this suit in his own name, and therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. View "Hawley v. Skradski" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2018, Mosley visited the Kohl’s stores in Northville and Novi, Michigan and encountered architectural barriers to access by wheelchair users in their restrooms. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions governing public accommodations, claiming that Kohl’s denied him “full and equal access and enjoyment of the services, goods and amenities due to barriers ... and a failure . . . to make reasonable accommodations,” 42 U.S.C. 12182. According to the district court, Mosley has filed similar lawsuits throughout the country. A resident of Arizona, Mosley “has family and friends that reside in the Detroit area whom he tries to visit at least annually.” Mosley, a musician, had scheduled visits to “southeast Michigan” in September and October 2018. He is planning to visit his family in Detroit in November 2018. He stated that he would return to the stores if they were modified to be ADA-compliant. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Mosley has sufficiently alleged a concrete and particularized past injury and has sufficiently alleged a real and immediate threat of future injury. Plaintiffs are not required to provide a definitive plan for returning to the accommodation itself to establish a threat of future injury, nor need they have visited the accommodation more than once. View "Mosley v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ultratec Special Effects, Inc. ("Ultratec"), filed two petitions for mandamus relief from the Alabama Supreme Court, to get the trial court to vacate its October 25, 2018 order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment on claims asserted against it by David Cothran, as the administrator of the estate of his sister, Aimee Cothran, and by Donald Ray Sanderson, as the administrator of the estate of his wife, Virginia Marie Sanderson (collectively, "the Estates"), based on, among others, Ultratec's claim that it was immune from suit based on the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act. Aimee Cothran and Virginia Sanderson were working at an Ultratec HSV plant when they were killed by an explosion. They separately sued Ultratec, alleging, among other causes of action, negligence and strict liability. Ultratec’s answer asserted the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Specifically, Ultratec argued that it was immune because it and Ultratec HSV were a single employer group for purposes of the Act; because Aimee and Virginia were jointly employed by both Ultratec and Ultratec HSV; and because Ultratec HSV operated as a division of Ultratec. The Estates filed a response in opposition to the motion for a summary judgment, arguing that a parent corporation is not entitled to the immunity provided by the exclusivity provisions of the Act in a tort action for the injury or death of an employee of the corporation's subsidiary; that questions of fact existed as to whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities; and that the joint-employer doctrine is inapplicable as a matter of law. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying Ultratec's motion for a summary judgment, holding that Ultratec was protected by the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Given the “abundance of disputed facts,” the Alabama Supreme Court could not say Ultratec demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief on the issue of whether Ultratec and Ultratec HSV were separate entities, or that the Alabama Legislature intended to extend immunity to parent corporations for employees killed on the job. Ultratec’s applications for relief were granted in part, denied in part, but the petitions were ultimately denied. View "Ex parte Ultratec Special Effects, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Lofts Essex, LLC and the Wilson Inn, Inc. (collectively, the Lofts), appeal the trial court’s pretrial denial of summary judgment and the court’s final decision ruling in favor of defendant, Strategis Floor and Décor, Inc. The dispute between the parties arose from a warranty claim made on laminate flooring in a 54-apartment unit complex. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the trial court’s pretrial denial of summary judgment was not reviewable and affirmed the final decision granting judgment to Strategis. View "The Lofts Essex, LLC v. Strategis Floor Decor Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and counterclaim-defendants Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, LLC (Famous Brands) and Mrs. Fields Franchising, LLC (Fields Franchising) appealed a district court order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of defendant and counterclaim-plaintiff MFGPC Inc. (MFGPC). The sole member of Famous Brands is Mrs. Fields Original Cookies, Inc. (MFOC). MFOC entered into a Trademark License Agreement (License Agreement) with LHF, Inc. (LHF), an affiliate of MFGPC. In 2003, LHF assigned all rights under the License Agreement to MFGPC, and MFGPC agreed to be bound by and perform in accordance with the License Agreement. The License Agreement granted MFGPC a license to develop, manufacture, package, distribute and sell prepackaged popcorn products bearing the “Mrs. Fields” trademark through all areas of general retail distribution. A dispute arose after Fields Franchising allowed MFGPC to be late with a royalty payment because of a fire that destroyed some of MFGPC’s operations. The franchisor sought to terminate the licensing agreement and collect the royalties owed. Fields Franchising filed suit against MFGPC. In August 2018, the district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of MFGPC on its counterclaim for breach of a trademark license agreement that afforded MFGPC the exclusive use of the “Mrs. Fields” trademark on popcorn products. The district court’s summary judgment order left only the question of remedy to be decided at trial. MFGPC then moved for a preliminary injunction, arguing that there was a substantial likelihood that it would prevail at trial on the remedy of specific performance. After conducting a hearing, the district court granted MFGPC’s motion and ordered Fields Franchising to terminate any licenses it had entered into with other companies for the use of the Mrs. Fields trademark on popcorn products, and to instead comply with the terms of the licensing agreement it had previously entered into with MFGPC. Famous Brands and Fields Franchising argued in this appeal that the district court erred in a number of respects in granting MFGPC’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Tenth Circuit agreed with appellants, and consequently reversed the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of MFGPC. View "Mrs. Fields Famous Brands v. MFGPC" on Justia Law

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Since November 2012, LNM1, LLC, operated a gasoline station and convenience store in Greensboro, Alabama under a lease agreement with the owner of the property, TP Properties, LLC. In August 2017, TP Properties sued LNM1 and its owner Mohamed Alsahqani seeking to terminate the lease because LNM1 had not maintained all the required insurance coverages. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of TP Properties, holding that LNM1's failure to maintain the insurance required by the lease agreement constituted a material breach of that agreement, thus entitling TP Properties to terminate the lease. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "LNM1, LLC, and Mohamed Alsahqani v. TP Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Handoush, a store owner, sued LFG regarding a lease for credit card processing equipment. The complaint alleges fraud, rescission, and violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200. The lease agreement states that it “shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York,” that any disputes shall be litigated in New York, and that the parties waived their rights to a jury trial. California precedent (Grafton), forbids pre-dispute jury trial waivers; under New York law such waivers are enforceable. The court dismissed, finding that Handoush did not meet his heavy burden of demonstrating that the forum selection clause is unreasonable and that “the right to trial by jury is not unwaivable” under Code of Civil Procedure section 631. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erred in enforcing the forum selection clause in favor of a New York forum where the clause includes a pre-dispute jury trial waiver, which Grafton instructs is unenforceable under California law. LFG failed to show that enforcement of the forum selection clause would not substantially diminish the rights of California residents in a way that violates California's public policy. View "Handoush v. Lease Finance Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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This lawsuit stemmed from MGA and Mattel's dispute over ownership of the Bratz line of dolls and claims of copyright infringement. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that, under California law, the same suspicions that allowed MGA to request discovery and plead the unclean hands defense in the federal court in 2007 were sufficient to trigger the statute of limitation on its misappropriation of trade secrets claim which was filed in federal court in 2010. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the complaint because it was barred by the statute of limitations. View "MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc." on Justia Law

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Symetra appealed a jury verdict in favor of FinServ and A.M.Y. in an action involving structured settlement payments Symetra owed to two individuals. Both payments were subject to security interests held by FinServ and A.M.Y. in all of Rapid and RSL-3B's then-owned and after-acquired property. The Fifth Circuit held that filing a financing statement does not provide actual notice. Without an inquiry duty, the court held that Symetra's failure to find the financing statement was not "actual notice." Because the facts presented did not support the conclusion of actual notice, the court held that the district court should have granted judgment in favor of Symetra as a matter of law, since Symetra did not receive notice that the payments were assigned to FinServ and A.M.Y. until 2012, after its offset rights accrued. Therefore, Symetra's defenses were not subordinated to the security interests held by FinServ and A.M.Y. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded, rendering judgment as a matter of law to Symetra. View "FinServ Casualty Corp. v. Symetra Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law