Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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C. Randall Caldwell, Jr. worked for George Woerner, who owned several businesses headquartered in Foley. In 2009, Caldwell was promoted to president of Woerner Landscape, Inc., one of those businesses. Caldwell stated that, at that time, he was a licensed attorney in good standing in Alabama even though he was not engaged in private practice. During his employment with Woerner, the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Caldwell contacted an attorney with Cunningham Bounds, LLC, a law firm in Mobile, regarding the possibility of referring Woerner's businesses to Cunningham Bounds for Cunningham Bounds to handle their claims arising out of the spill. In April 2011, the Woerner companies retained Cunningham Bounds; Cunningham Bounds executed representation agreements with each of the Woerner companies. Those agreements provided that Cunningham Bounds would be paid a contingency fee for the work. In 2014, the Woerner companies retained Sirote & Permutt, P.C. to assist Cunningham Bounds in the BP oil-spill litigation. Additionally, each of the Woerner companies sent Caldwell a letter in which they stated that Caldwell had previously assisted with a BP oil-spill claim asserted on behalf of that Woerner company; that the claim had been principally handled by Cunningham Bounds; and that at the time Caldwell provided assistance he was working as in-house counsel for one or more of the Woerner companies. Each letter went on to assert that the claim would have to be reworked "based on newly announced guidelines from appellate courts hearing BP's objections to some of the previously filed claims"; that the owners and management of the Woerner companies felt that it would be in their best interest to retain a firm with experienced tax and business attorneys to assist in the claims; that the Woerner companies wished to continue their representation by Cunningham Bounds; that they were terminating the attorney-client relationship between Caldwell and the Woerner companies; and that they were retaining Sirote to assist Cunningham Bounds in reworking the claims asserted by the Woerner companies. After receiving this letter, Caldwell contacted one of the attorneys at Cunningham Bounds and told him that it was his position that he was entitled to the referral fees discussed in the representation agreements because, he said, he had referred the Woerner companies' claims to Cunningham Bounds. Summary judgment was ultimately entered in favor of Caldwell; the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in finding Caldwell was owed a referral fee. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sirote & Permutt, P.C. v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings on certain stock and wage conversion claims, holding that Plaintiff's stock conversion claims should be permitted to proceed but that Plaintiff did not plead a cognizable claim for conversion of wages. Plaintiff worked alongside Defendant to launch three start-up ventures in return for a promise of later payment of wages. Later, Plaintiff was fired and never paid. Plaintiff successfully sued the companies invoking both contract-based and statutory remedies for the nonpayment of wages. In this lawsuit, Plaintiff sought to hold Defendant personally responsible for the unpaid wages on a theory of common law conversion. The trial court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed in part but concluded that extending the tort of conversion to the wage context was not warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a conversion claim was not an appropriate remedy for the wrong alleged in this case. View "Voris v. Lampert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint against Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the Utah Nonresident Jurisdiction Act compels adoption of the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction and that the case must be remanded for the district court to reexamine the claims and contacts and to apply the jurisdictional tests announced here. Plaintiffs sued Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Goldman Sachs & Co., and related entities (collectively Defendants) for violations of the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants collectively without analyzing the nature of each individual defendant's contacts as they related to each individual plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) because the district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims and Defendants' contacts collectively, it may have distorted its analysis; and (2) Utah now recognizes a conspiracy theory of jurisdiction, and this case must be remanded to the district court with instruction to assess the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction. View "Raser Technologies, Inc. v. Morgan Stanley & Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery held that it was without jurisdiction to address Plaintiff's claim seeking equitable relief for alleged common-law slander on the basis that equity will not enjoin a libel. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Defendants, business competitors, alleging tortious interference with prospective business relations and common-law defamation. As to the defamation claim, Plaintiff sought to enjoin future defamatory utterances. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The Court of Chancery granted the motion to dismiss the defamation count, subject to transfer to the superior court, holding that, under this Court's precedent, equity in general will not enjoin future defamation, and no exception to the general rule applies in this case. View "Preston Hollow Capital LLC v. Nuveen LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question regarding California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code 51 et seq., by holding that a plaintiff has standing to bring a claim under the Act when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services and encounters terms and conditions that allegedly deny the plaintiff full and equal access to the website's services and then leaves the website without entering into an agreement with the service provider. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging that Defendant's seller agreement discriminated against him in violation of the Act. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Plaintiff lacked standing under the Act to sue Defendant because Plaintiff had not attempted to use Defendant's services. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the certification order at issue in this case. The Supreme Court held that, under the rule announced today, Plaintiff sufficiently alleged injury for Unruh Civil Rights Act standing because entering into an agreement with the business is not required for standing under the Act. View "White v. Square, Inc." on Justia Law

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R&W appealed a judgment entered after R&W allegedly defaulted in making payments to Osteroid Parties under a settlement agreement. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in entering the stipulated judgment because the additional $700,000 was an unenforceable penalty under Civil Code section 1671. However, the court held that the trial court's factual determinations regarding R&W's breach of the agreement were supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded with directions to reduce the judgment, with further adjustments, plus interest. The court noted that its decision to publish was to remind practitioners whose clients settle a dispute involving payments over time how to incentivize prompt payment properly, and what may happen if done incorrectly. View "Red & White Distribution v. Osteroid Enterprises" on Justia Law

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After an Anchorage strip club applied to have its liquor license renewed the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board received multiple objections to the renewal. Former employees, the Department of Labor, and the Municipality of Anchorage each alleged wage law violations, untrustworthy management, and unsafe policies. After three hearings before the Board and one before an administrative law judge, the Board denied renewal because it was not in the public interest. The club appealed to the superior court, which affirmed the Board’s decision. The club appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, arguing it was unreasonable to find that renewal was not in the public interest and that the club was denied due process in the administrative proceeding. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court’s decision to uphold the Board’s determination. View "Fantasies on 5th Avenue, LLC. v. Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board" on Justia Law

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Two federal district courts certified questions of law to the Alaska Supreme Court involving the state’s “mineral dump lien” statute. In 1910, the United States Congress passed Alaska’s first mineral dump lien statute, granting laborers a lien against a “dump or mass” of hard-rock minerals for their work creating the dump. The mineral dump lien statute remained substantively unchanged since, and rarely have issues involving the statute arisen. The Supreme Court accepted certified questions from both the United States District Court and the United States Bankruptcy Court regarding the scope of the mineral dump lien statute as applied to natural gas development. Cook Inlet Energy, LLC operated oil and gas wells in southcentral Alaska. In November 2014, Cook Inlet contracted with All American Oilfield, LLC to “drill, complete, engineer and/or explore three wells” on Cook Inlet’s oil and gas leaseholds. All American began work soon thereafter, including drilling rig operations, digging holes, casing, and completing the gas wells. When All American concluded its work the following summer, Cook Inlet was unable to pay. In June 2015 All American recorded liens against Cook Inlet, including a mine lien under AS 34.35.125 and a mineral dump lien under AS 34.35.140. In October, after its creditors filed an involuntary petition for relief, Cook Inlet consented to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. In January 2016 All American filed an adversary proceeding in the bankruptcy court “to determine the validity and priority of its secured claims.” The bankruptcy court found that All American has a valid mine lien against the three wells. But the court denied All American’s asserted mineral dump lien against unextracted gas remaining in natural reservoirs. The court also concluded that All American’s mine lien was subordinate to Cook Inlet’s secured creditors’ prior liens, which would have consumed all of Cook Inlet’s assets and leave All American with nothing. All American appealed to the federal district court, which, in turn, certified questions regarding the Alaska mineral dump lien statute. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the statutory definition of “dump or mass” reflected that a mineral dump lien could extend only to gas extracted from its natural reservoir, that the lien may cover produced gas contained in a pipeline if certain conditions are met, and that to obtain a dump lien laborers must demonstrate that their work aided, broadly, in gas production. View "In re: Cook Inlet Energy, LLC, Gebhardt, v. Inman" on Justia Law

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Lamar maintained and operated a billboard on land that it leased from R.E.D. After R.E.D. and Landmark executed an agreement under which Landmark agreed to pay R.E.D. in exchange for, among other things, the right to receive rent from Lamar, Landmark sued R.E.D. for breach of contract and sued R.E.D. and Defendant Van Stavern for fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court did not err by excluding the testimony of defendants' expert witness where the expert's opinions were not relevant because they were not supported by facts in the record. Furthermore, the district court did not err by denying defendants' request for reconsideration, because the discovery deadlines had passed and defendants failed to offer a substantial justification for their delay. Finally, the court held that the damages award were not duplicative and affirmed the attorneys' fee award. View "Landmark Infrastructure Holding Co. v. R.E.D. Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' claims of defamation and product disparagement under Nebraska's Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 87-301 to 87-306, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Appellees were entitled to summary judgment on Appellants' claims. Appellants were tanning salons that, from 2015 to 2017, allegedly accounted for up to seventy-one percent of the known tanning salons in the Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska markets. Appellees engaged in activities related to cancer education and prevention, focusing in 2014 on the dangers of indoor tanning. In 2015, Appellants filed a complaint alleging violations of the UDTPA for deceptive trade practices and product disparagement and defamation. The district court granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Appellants' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that there were no genuine disputes as to any material facts and that Appellees were entitled to summary judgment on Appellants' defamation and product disparagement claims. View "JB & Associates, Inc. v. Nebraska Cancer Coalition" on Justia Law