by
Qwinstar and Pro Logistics entered into an agreement wherein Qwinstar would purchase Pro Logistics and employ its owner for a term of five years. Qwinstar fired the owner a few months after the sale and filed suit alleging that it did not receive the inventory it bargained for in the sale. The owner counterclaimed, alleging breach of the employment contract by not paying him for the full five-year term. The Eighth Circuit held that Qwinstar was unable to prove that the owner breached the contract and thus affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the owner and Pro Logistics. The court held that summary judgment was inappropriate on the owner's counterclaim because the contract provisions were ambiguous and reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation. Therefore, interpretation becomes a question of fact precluding summary judgment. View "Qwinstar Corp. v. Anthony" on Justia Law

by
Turtle Creek Crossing, LLC, a minority interest holder in Kimco Hattiesburg, L.P., filed an action in circuit court after it learned it would receive no distribution from the sale of the partnership’s only asset, a multimillion-dollar shopping center. In its complaint, Turtle Creek alleged its fellow partners breached their fiduciary duties and conspired with each other, the partnership, and a sister partnership to market and sell the asset in such a way as to keep Turtle Creek from profiting. According to the defendants, the predominant claim was for an accounting - an equitable claim that belonges in chancery court; had this case been filed in chancery court, there would be a strong argument for the chancery court’s original jurisdiction over the accounting claim, as well as pendant jurisdiction over the legal claims. Turtle Creek did not file this action in chancery court. It filed it in circuit court. And the circuit court also had original jurisdiction, not only over the accounting claim, but also Turtle Creek’s other legal claims. Because Turtle Creek chose a forum with proper subject-matter jurisdiction, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined that choice must be respected. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of the motion to transfer and remanded for further proceedings. View "KD Hattiesburg 1128, Inc. v. Turtle Creek Crossing, LLC" on Justia Law

by
CNH, which manufactures “New Holland” brand farming and construction machinery, hired the real estate services firm, JLL, to manage a corporate re-branding program that involved the replacement of signage more than 1,400 North American dealerships. The vinyl used in the new signs was defective, necessitating the re-manufacture and replacement of virtually all of the installed signs. After the vinyl manufacturer repudiated its commitment to replace, at its own cost, the defective signs, CNH sued, alleging that JLL had failed to perform adequate quality control in the manufacturing of the signs, failed to negotiate the best possible warranty on the vinyl and the signs, and failed to properly document and manage the warranties. The district court found that CNH had suffered damages of $5,482,735 but reduced JLL’s liability to $3,026.361.60—the sum CNH paid to JLL in project management fees—plus such other amounts JLL might recover from third parties (the vinyl manufacturer and the sign fabricators) in the future. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court’s findings were supported by the evidence and make clear that JLL’s own failures with respect to quality control in the manufacturing process and with respect to the vinyl warranty made the defective-sign problem much worse for CNH than it otherwise would have been. View "CNH Industrial America LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

by
CNH, which manufactures “New Holland” brand farming and construction machinery, hired the real estate services firm, JLL, to manage a corporate re-branding program that involved the replacement of signage more than 1,400 North American dealerships. The vinyl used in the new signs was defective, necessitating the re-manufacture and replacement of virtually all of the installed signs. After the vinyl manufacturer repudiated its commitment to replace, at its own cost, the defective signs, CNH sued, alleging that JLL had failed to perform adequate quality control in the manufacturing of the signs, failed to negotiate the best possible warranty on the vinyl and the signs, and failed to properly document and manage the warranties. The district court found that CNH had suffered damages of $5,482,735 but reduced JLL’s liability to $3,026.361.60—the sum CNH paid to JLL in project management fees—plus such other amounts JLL might recover from third parties (the vinyl manufacturer and the sign fabricators) in the future. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court’s findings were supported by the evidence and make clear that JLL’s own failures with respect to quality control in the manufacturing process and with respect to the vinyl warranty made the defective-sign problem much worse for CNH than it otherwise would have been. View "CNH Industrial America LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Enduro Operating, LLC and Echo Production, Inc. were two of several parties to a joint operating agreement (JOA). Under the JOA, Echo, as a party wishing to undertake a new drilling project, had to provide notice of the proposed project to the other parties to the JOA, who then had thirty days to decide whether to opt in or out of the project. By opting in, a party agreed to share in the cost and risk of the project. If a party opted out of the project (as Enduro did in this case), then the party was deemed “non-consenting,” and exempt from any of the cost or risk associated with the new project, but could not share in any of the profits from the new project until the consenting parties recovered four-hundred percent of the labor and equipment costs invested in the new project. The question before us is what activities are adequate as a matter of law to 6 satisfy the contractual requirement that a consenting party actually commence the 7 drilling operation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the language in Johnson v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 981 P.2d 288, indicating that “any” preparatory activities would be sufficient was too permissive. The Court of Appeals was persuaded that Echo’s lack of on-site activity at the proposed well site, other than surveying and staking, and lack of a permit to commence drilling was evidence as a matter of law that Echo had not actually commenced drilling operations. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Echo and remanded for an entry of summary judgment in favor of Enduro. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to obtain an approved drilling permit within the relevant commencement period was not dispositive; “[a] party may prove that it has actually commenced drilling operations with evidence that it committed resources, whether on-site or off-site, that demonstrate its present good-faith intent to diligently carry on drilling activities until completion. “ View "Enduro Operating LLC v. Echo Prod., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Enduro Operating, LLC and Echo Production, Inc. were two of several parties to a joint operating agreement (JOA). Under the JOA, Echo, as a party wishing to undertake a new drilling project, had to provide notice of the proposed project to the other parties to the JOA, who then had thirty days to decide whether to opt in or out of the project. By opting in, a party agreed to share in the cost and risk of the project. If a party opted out of the project (as Enduro did in this case), then the party was deemed “non-consenting,” and exempt from any of the cost or risk associated with the new project, but could not share in any of the profits from the new project until the consenting parties recovered four-hundred percent of the labor and equipment costs invested in the new project. The question before us is what activities are adequate as a matter of law to 6 satisfy the contractual requirement that a consenting party actually commence the 7 drilling operation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the language in Johnson v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 981 P.2d 288, indicating that “any” preparatory activities would be sufficient was too permissive. The Court of Appeals was persuaded that Echo’s lack of on-site activity at the proposed well site, other than surveying and staking, and lack of a permit to commence drilling was evidence as a matter of law that Echo had not actually commenced drilling operations. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Echo and remanded for an entry of summary judgment in favor of Enduro. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to obtain an approved drilling permit within the relevant commencement period was not dispositive; “[a] party may prove that it has actually commenced drilling operations with evidence that it committed resources, whether on-site or off-site, that demonstrate its present good-faith intent to diligently carry on drilling activities until completion. “ View "Enduro Operating LLC v. Echo Prod., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Metro, a managing clerk at a New York City law firm, engaged in a five-year scheme in which he disclosed material nonpublic information concerning corporate transactions to his friend Tamayo. Tamayo told his stockbroker, Eydelman, who made trades for Tamayo, himself, his family, his friends, and other clients. Metro did not hold the involved stocks himself and did not collect proceeds but relied on Tamayo to reinvest the proceeds from their unlawful trades in future insider trading. During the government’s investigation, Tamayo promptly admitted his role in the scheme and cooperated with the government. The insider trading based on Metro’s tips resulted in illicit gains of $5,673,682. The court attributed that entire sum to Metro in determining his 46-month sentence after Metro pled guilty to conspiracy to violate securities laws, 18 U.S.C. 371, and insider trading, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff. Metro denies being aware of Eydelman’s existence until one year after he relayed his last tip to Tamayo, and contends that he never intended any of the tips to be passed to a broker or any other third party. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence. The district court failed to make sufficient factual findings to support the attribution of the full $5.6 million to Metro and gave too broad a meaning to the phrase “acting in concert.” View "United States v. Metro" on Justia Law

by
A father and son left employment at Engineered Abrasives to start a competing business, American Machine, in 2011. Several lawsuits followed. In 2015, Engineered Abrasives won a default judgment against American Machine and its principals for $714,814.04 and injunctive relief for stealing trade secrets and infringing trademarks. Five months later, Engineered Abrasives sued again; the parties reached a settlement. American Machine’s insurer would pay $75,000 to Engineered Abrasives, and a permanent injunction would be entered against slander by American Machine or its principals with a $250,000 liquidated damages clause accompanying the injunction. American Machine returned to court in the earlier case under FRCP 60(b), reporting that the settlement covered the earlier trademark judgment as well as the new case; Engineered Abrasives contended that it had only settled the new case. The written settlement did not mention a global settlement. The district court and Seventh Circuit agreed that the settlement’s release clause is unambiguous and releases all claims and liabilities between the parties, including the earlier default judgment. Under Illinois law, a court deciding whether the parties intended to include other claims in a release cannot consider extrinsic evidence unless the contract is ambiguous. View "Engineered Abrasives, Inc. v. American Machine Products & Service, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2014, Traci Salinas and Sharon Lee Stark, as shareholders of Sterne Agee Group, Inc. ("SAG") filed a shareholder-derivative action, on behalf of nominal defendant SAG, against James and William Holbrook and the nonHolbrook directors, who together composed the SAG board of directors. Salinas and Stark alleged that the Holbrooks had breached their fiduciary duty to the SAG shareholders by misusing, misappropriating, and wasting corporate assets and that the non-Holbrook directors had knowledge of, and had acquiesced in, the Holbrooks' alleged misconduct. In 2015, while Salinas and Stark's action was pending, SAG entered into a merger agreement with Stifel Financial Corp. ("Stifel") pursuant to which Stifel would acquire SAG ("the merger"). As a result of the merger, each share of certain classes of SAG stock was to be converted into a right of the shareholder to receive a pro rata share of merger consideration in cash and/or shares of Stifel common stock. The Holbrooks moved for summary judgment in which they argued that, under Delaware law, when a plaintiff in a shareholder-derivative action ceases to be a shareholder of the corporation on whose behalf the action was brought, the shareholder was divested of standing to continue prosecuting the derivative action. Thus, the Holbrooks argued, because Salinas and Wainwright were no longer SAG shareholders following the merger, they lacked standing to prosecute their derivative action and, the argument continued, the Holbrooks were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In response, Salinas and Wainwright amended their complaint to allege that a merger "cannot absolve fiduciaries from accountability for fraudulent conduct that necessitated the merger." Rather, they maintained, "such conduct gives rise to a direct claim that survives the merger, as the injury caused by such misconduct is suffered by the shareholders rather than the corporation, and thereby supports a direct cause of action." Subsequently, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal in which they dismissed Salinas from the action, leaving Wainwright as the sole plaintiff. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that a May 2017 trial court order did not come within the subject-matter-jurisdiction exception to the general rule that the denial of a motion to dismiss or a motion for a summary judgment was not reviewable by petition for a writ of mandamus. “The petitioners have an adequate remedy by way of appeal should they suffer an adverse judgment. Accordingly, we deny the petitions.” View "Ex parte Jon S. Sanderson et al." on Justia Law

by
The New Hampshire Banking Department (Department) initiated an adjudicative proceeding against CashCall, Inc. (CashCall), WS Funding, LLC (WS Funding), and John Paul Reddam, for violations of RSA chapter 399-A (2006 & Supp. 2012) (repealed and reenacted 2015). Reddam is the president and chief executive officer of CashCall, a lending and loan services corporation headquartered and incorporated in California. Reddam owned all of CashCall’s corporate stock. Reddam was also the president of WS Funding, a wholly owned subsidiary of CashCall. WS Funding was a Delaware limited liability company with a principal place of business in California. CashCall appeared to be engaged in the business of purchasing and servicing small loans or “payday loans” in association with Western Sky Financial. Neither Reddam, CashCall, nor WS Funding was licensed under RSA chapter 399-A to issue small loans in New Hampshire. In June 2013, after analyzing and reviewing CashCall’s responses to an administrative subpoena duces tecum and reviewing the business relationships among CashCall, WS Funding, and Western Sky Financial, the Department issued a cease and desist order to CashCall, WS Funding, and Reddam. In the cease and desist order, the Department found that either CashCall, or WS Funding, was the “actual” or “de facto” lender for the payday and small loans, and that Western Sky Financial was a front for the respondents’ unlicensed activities. Reddam challenged the Department’s denial of his motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the Department made a prima facie showings that: (1) Reddam’s contacts related to the Department’s cause of action; (2) he purposefully availed himself of the protection of New Hampshire law; and (3) it was fair and reasonable to require him to defend suit in New Hampshire. The Court therefore found no due process violation in the Department’s exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Reddam. View "Petition of John Paul Reddam" on Justia Law