Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
Paraflon Investments, Ltd. v. Fullbridge, Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling against Paraflon Investments, Ltd. on its state-law misrepresentation claims against Fullbridge, Inc. and its principals, Peter Olson and Candice Olson, holding that there was no clear error in the district court's determinations. Fullbridge sought investments from Paraflon regarding a project involving the production of online training courses. After its investment deteriorated, Paraflon brought suit against Fullbridge and the Olsons in federal district court, alleging federal securities fraud claims and common law claims for, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation,and fraudulent misrepresentation. After the case was transferred to the District of Massachusetts the court ruled against Paraflon, finding that Fullbridge did not knowingly or intentionally make a false statement. Paraflon appealed, challenging the district court's disposition of the state-law misrepresentation claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no clear error in the district court's determination that Fullbridge had a good faith belief that it had received a lucrative award from a third party related to the project; and (2) there was no clear error in the court's determination that Fullbridge's good-faith belief was objectively reasonable based on its experience with the third-party and what it knew at the time of Paraflon's investment. View "Paraflon Investments, Ltd. v. Fullbridge, Inc." on Justia Law
Borealis Power Holdings Inc. v. Hunt Strategic Utility Invesment
Hunt Strategic Utility Investment, L.L.C. (“Hunt”) owned a one-percent stake in Texas Transmission Holdings Corporation (“TTHC”), a utility holding company. The remaining ninety-nine percent was split equally between the Borealis entities (Borealis Power Holdings, Inc. and BPC Health Corporation, together, “Borealis”) and Cheyne Walk Investment PTE LTD (“Cheyne Walk”); neither Borealis nor Cheyne Walk owned a majority stake in TTHC, each owned 49.5%. TTHC wholly owned Texas Transmission Finco LLC, which wholly owned Texas Transmission Investment LLC (“TTI”). TTI in turn owned 19.75% of Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC (“Oncor”). The remaining 80.25% of Oncor is held by Sempra Texas Holdings Corp. (“STH) and Sempra Texas Intermediate Holding Company, LLC (“STIH” and, together with STH, “Sempra”). This dispute involved a purported conflict between two separate contracts binding two discrete sets of parties who owned Oncor. Hunt’s sale of its one-percent stake is subject to the TTHC Shareholder Agreement (the “TTHC SA”), which gives Borealis and Cheyne Walk a right of first offer in the event that Hunt wishes to sell (the “ROFO”). But Sempra argued the sale was also subject to a separate contract - the Oncor Investor Rights Agreement (the “Oncor IRA”) - which provided Sempra with a right of first refusal (the “ROFR”) in the event Oncor LLC units were transferred. The Court of Chancery decided in Sempra’s favor, holding that Hunt’s sale of its 1% stake in TTHC was also a “transfer” of Oncor LLC units, as defined in the Oncor IRA. The court thus held Hunt’s proposed sale triggered Sempra’s ROFR, which preempted Borealis’s ROFO because the source of the ROFO was the TTHC SA, which itself stated that enforcement of the TTHC SA could not breach the Oncor IRA. After a de novo review of the language of both the TTHC SA and the Oncor IRA, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Oncor IRA, which, by its terms, restricted transfers by Oncor’s Minority Member (TTI) and not by Hunt, did not apply to Hunt’s sale of its interest in TTHC. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Court of Chancery. View "Borealis Power Holdings Inc. v. Hunt Strategic Utility Invesment" on Justia Law
Benjamin v. Bierman
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Defendants breached two operating agreements, ordering an accounting for each, declining to dissolve either, and awarding Plaintiff damages, holding that there was no merit to the assignments of error on appeal. Plaintiff, the personal representative of the estate of Mark Benjamin, filed separate complaints against Douglas Bierman (Doug) and Sixth Street Rentals, LLC (collectively, Rentals) and against Doug, Eugene Bierman, and Sixth Street Development, LLC (collectively, Development) generally seeking an accounting to dissolve both Rentals and Development and damages. After the district court entered judgment, Plaintiff appealed and Defendants cross appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Brenda lacked standing to seek dissolution; (2) Defendants' assignments of error regarding fair market value were without merit; (3) there was no merit to Defendants' assignments of error related to breach of contract and specific performance; and (4) there was no merit to Defendants' remaining assignments of error. View "Benjamin v. Bierman" on Justia Law
Bierman v. Benjamin
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, Doug Bierman and Jim Hoppenstedt, on the issue of the enforceability of a buy-sell agreement, holding that the buy-sell agreement was clearly ambiguous. Mark Benjamin, Doug, and Jim entered into a buy-sell agreement providing for the sale and purchase of BD Construction, Inc. shares. After Mark died, Brenda Benjamin was appointed to serve as president of BD. One year later, Brenda terminated Plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against Brenda and BD, seeking, among other things, specific performance of the buy-sell agreement. Prior to trial, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a finding that the buy-sell agreement was enforceable. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on that issue. The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the district court's determination that the buy-sell agreement was unambiguous was plain error. View "Bierman v. Benjamin" on Justia Law
R.M. Bacon, LLC v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.
This case arose from defendants' ownership in a manufacturing facility that used and disposed perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which contaminated the water supply in the Village of Hoosick Falls, New York. Plaintiff, a construction company operating in the Village and the property owner, filed suit alleging property damage resulting from defendants' negligence in using and disposing of PFOA. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's denial of defendants' motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the claims that defendants' negligence caused the corporate plaintiff to lose revenues and caused the individual plaintiff to suffer devaluation of his land. The Second Circuit held that the district court properly denied the motion to dismiss the claim of the property owner but erred in denying the motion to dismiss the claim of the company. The court saw no error in the district court's conclusion that the principle of 532 Madison Ave. Gourmet Foods, Inc. v. Finlandia Center, Inc., 96 N.Y.2d 8 280, 727 N.Y.S.2d 49 (2001), is inapposite to the claim of the owner, because he alleged physical contamination of his property, and thus is entitled to seek damages not only for that intrusion but also for the diminution in value of the property. Therefore, the motion to dismiss the owner's negligence claim was properly denied. However, the company's negligence claim to recover its purely economic damages should have been dismissed. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the remaining claims lacked merit. View "R.M. Bacon, LLC v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp." on Justia Law
San Miguel Produce, Inc. v. L.G. Herndon, Jr. Farms, Inc.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia certified three questions to the Georgia Supreme Court regarding the scope of the Georgia Dealers in Agricultural Products Act, Ga. L. 1956, p. 617 (codified as amended at OCGA sections 2-9-1 to 2-9-16) (“the Act”). At issue was the effect of the Act’s provisions upon contracts entered into by an agricultural products dealer that failed to obtain a license from the Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture: in this case, a contract entered into between San Miguel Produce, Inc. (“San Miguel”), a California corporation, and L. G. Herndon Jr. Farms, Inc. (“Herndon Farms”), a Georgia corporation. The Supreme Court concluded: (1) an entity as described by the district court did qualify as a dealer in agricultural products under the Act and was not exempt under OCGA 2-9-15 (a) (1), with the limited exception of specific transactions “in the sale of agricultural products grown by [itself];” (2) the Act’s licensing requirements were part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme in the public interest and not merely a revenue measure; and (3) if a dealer has failed to obtain a license as required by OCGA 2-9-2, it may not recover under a contract to the extent that the contract relates to business coming within the terms of the Act. View "San Miguel Produce, Inc. v. L.G. Herndon, Jr. Farms, Inc." on Justia Law
Jones v. Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler
In this longstanding dispute between attorney Gregory Jones and his former law firm, Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler, P.C. (MPTO), over the distribution of litigation proceeds the Supreme Court upheld the jury's $647,090 verdict on Jones's quantum meruit/unjust enrichment claims, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of Jones's expert witness. Jones claimed a right to some of the fees collected by MPTO in personal injury cases arising out of the use of the drug known as Fen-Phen. Jones asserted claims for fraudulent transfer, quantum merit/unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and sought an award of punitive damages and to impose a constructive trust on the funds held by MPTO. A jury ultimately entered a verdict against MPTO on a quantum meruit/unjust enrichment theory and dismissed or rejected Jones's remaining claims. After a trial, the district court concluded that the judgment extended to Mackey Price, LLC, an entity the court ruled was a successor in interest to MPTO. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of Jones's fraudulent transfer and punitive damages claims, the decision that a constructive trust was categorically unavailable, and the default determination that Mackey Price, LLC was a successor in interest to MPTO and otherwise affirmed the district court. View "Jones v. Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler" on Justia Law
Aptive Environmental v. Town of Castle Rock
The Town of Castle Rock, Colorado enacted a 7:00 p.m. curfew on commercial door-to-door solicitation. Aptive Environmental, LLC sold pest-control services through door-to-door solicitation and encouraged its salespeople to go door-to-door until dusk during the traditional business week. When Aptive came to Castle Rock in 2017, it struggled to sell its services as successfully as it had in other nearby markets. Blaming the Curfew, Aptive sued Castle Rock for violating its First Amendment rights and sought an injunction against the Curfew’s enforcement. After a bench trial, the district court permanently enjoined Castle Rock from enforcing the Curfew. Castle Rock appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Castle Rock failed to demonstrate the Curfew advanced its substantial interests in a direct and material way. View "Aptive Environmental v. Town of Castle Rock" on Justia Law
Fischbein v. Olson Research Group Inc
The district courts dismissed two cases, concluding that faxes soliciting participation by the recipients in market research surveys in exchange for monetary payments are not advertisements within the meaning of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227 (b)(1)(C) (TCPA), which prohibits the transmission of unsolicited fax advertisements. In a consolidated appeal, the Third Circuit reversed.. Solicitations to buy products, goods, or services can be advertisements under the TCPA. The solicitations for participation in the surveys in exchange for $200.00 by one sender and $150.00 by the other sender were for services within the TCPA. An offer of payment in exchange for participation in a market survey is a commercial transaction, so a fax highlighting the availability of that transaction is an advertisement under the TCPA. View "Fischbein v. Olson Research Group Inc" on Justia Law
Robinson v. Langenbach
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court on a jury verdict for Plaintiff on her claim that, as directors of the closely held Perma-Jack Company, Defendants breached their fiduciary duty to Plaintiff as a shareholder, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) with respect to Plaintiff's breach of fiduciary claim, because Plaintiff did not sue Perma-Jack itself for lost wages or reinstatement, Plaintiff's claim was not actually one for wrongful termination, as Defendants argued; (2) the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendants engaged in shareholder oppression and ordering Defendants to buy Plaintiff's Perma-Jack shares; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in determining the fair value of Plaintiff's shares and in denying Plaintiff prejudgment interest and attorney's fees. View "Robinson v. Langenbach" on Justia Law