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Hotel Coleman owned a Holiday Inn Express franchise. Vaughn ran daily operations, including hiring, supervising, and discharging employees, and determining compensation. Frey and other Hotel workers were on Hotel Coleman’s payroll; the management agreement stated that all personnel “are in the employ of” the Hotel. Vaughn hired Frey in 2008. Frey alleged that Vaughn subjected her to unwelcome sexual comments and advances. Frey objected and complained to the housekeeping manager, but the behavior went unchecked. After Frey informed Vaughn that she was pregnant, Vaughn reduced her hours and took other steps in retaliation. During Frey’s maternity leave, she filed a charge with the EEOC. One week after she returned from leave, Vaughn fired her for allegedly stealing another employee’s phone. Frey sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The court accepted Vaughn’s argument that it was not an employer; granted Vaughn summary judgment on Frey’s sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and Title VII retaliation claims; and entered summary judgment against Hotel Coleman. A jury awarded Frey $45,000 in compensatory damages; the court awarded her $13,520 in back pay. The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding that Vaughn was a joint employer. The existence of a joint employment relationship is analyzed under an “economic realities” test which considers the extent of the employer’s control over the worker; the kind of occupation and skill required; responsibility for the costs of operation; method of payment and benefits; and length of job commitment or expectations. View "Frey v. Hotel Coleman" on Justia Law

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Bert Nettles appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C. ("Rumberger") and several attorneys with the firm. This case stemmed from the demise of the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, LLC ("Haskell Slaughter"). Nettles and the individual defendants were all former members of Haskell Slaughter. In 2013, Haskell Slaughter was in financial distress, and members of the firm were in discussions as to what, if anything, could be done to save the firm. In December 2013, 10 lawyers, including the individual defendants, left Haskell Slaughter and joined Rumberger. Haskell Slaughter permanently closed in February 2014. In 2015, Bluebird Holdings, LLC ("Bluebird"), filed a complaint against Nettles and three other former members of Haskell Slaughter, seeking to collect on personal guarantee agreements executed by the former members. Nettles filed a third-party complaint in the Bluebird action against Rumberger and the individual defendants. Nettles sought damages from Rumberger and the individual defendants for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conspiracy, and tortious interference with a contract. Nettles alleged that the individual defendants, in violation of fiduciary duties owed Nettles and Haskell Slaughter, conspired with each other and with Rumberger to orchestrate Rumberger's acquisition of two of Haskell Slaughter's most profitable practice groups. Nettles alleged that the loss of those practice groups "was the psychological and financial death blow to Haskell Slaughter" in that it thwarted plans for a potential firm-saving reorganization, caused the remaining members of the firm to leave, and resulted in the liquidation of Haskell Slaughter and ultimately the Bluebird action. The demise of Haskell Slaughter caused it to default on bank debt for which Nettles was a guarantor. Rumberger and the individual defendants filed a motion to dismiss Nettles's third-party complaint, arguing, among other things, that certain of Nettles's damages claims were not permissible under Rule 14, Ala. R. Civ. P. The trial court agreed and ruled that Nettles could recover only money that he may be required to pay as a result the personal guarantee agreement made the basis of the Bluebird action. As a result of that ruling, Nettles filed this suit, now before the Alabama Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment to the firm and individual defendants on all claims asserted, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nettles v. Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C., et al." on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to make a pre-suit demand and failure to state a claim for relief Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint asserting a claim for breach of fiduciary duty and seeking the appointment of a receiver, holding that the motion to dismiss was properly granted. Specifically, the Court held (1) Count I of the amended complaint asserting a claim for breach of fiduciary duty must be dismissed based on Plaintiff’s failure to make a pre-suit demand on some of the defendants; and (2) Count II of the amended complaint seeking the appointment of a receiver failed to state a claim for relief. View "Stritzinger v. Barba" on Justia Law

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JTE, distributed products for Bimbo around Chicago under an agreement with no fixed duration that could be terminated in the event of a non-curable or untimely-cured breach. New York law governed all disputes. According to JTE, Bimbo began fabricating curable breaches in 2008 in a scheme to force JTE out as its distributor and install a less-costly distributor. Bimbo employees filed false reports of poor service and out-of-stock products in JTE’s distribution area and would sometimes remove products from store shelves, photograph the empty shelves as “proof” of a breach, and then return the products to their shelves. Once, a distributor caught a Bimbo manager in the act of fabricating a photograph. Bimbo assured JTE that this would never happen again. In 2011, Bimbo unilaterally terminated JTE’s agreement, citing the fabricated breaches, and forced JTE to sell its rights to new distributors. JTE claims that it did not learn about the scheme until 2013-2014. The district court dismissed JTE’s suit for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the primary-purpose test, the agreement qualifies as a contract for the sale of goods, governed by the UCC’s four-year statute of limitations, not by the 10-year period for other written contracts. With respect to tortious interference, the court reasoned that JTE knew about the shelving incidents and should not have “slumber[ed] on [its] rights” until it determined the exact way in which it was harmed. View "Heiman v. Bimbo Foods Bakeries Distribution Co." on Justia Law

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Jacob Greer, doing business as Greer Farm, appealed from a judgment dismissing his claims against Global Industries, Inc. and Nebraska Engineering Co. ("NECO"), an unincorporated division of Global Industries (collectively "Global"). Greer argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissal of his claims against Global because there were genuine issues of material fact about whether Advanced Ag Construction Incorporation, also a party to this action, was Global's agent when Advanced Ag sold a grain dryer to Greer. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, concluding certification under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) was improvidently granted. View "Greer v. Global Industries" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by four taxicab drivers against Uber, alleging that Uber tortiously interfered with a valid business expectancy. The court held that it need not decide whether there was a valid business expectancy because plaintiffs failed to allege the absence of justification under Missouri law. In this case, there was no evidence that the legislature intended to create a private cause of action based on violation of the Missouri Taxicab Commission's code and requirements. View "Vilcek v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Palmetto Mortuary Transport, Inc. sued Knight Systems, Inc. and Robert Knight (collectively, Knight) for breach of an asset purchase agreement executed in connection with the sale of Knight's mortuary transport business to Palmetto. A special referee found Knight breached the agreement by violating both a non-compete covenant and an exclusive sales provision contained in the agreement. Knight appealed, and the court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding the 150-mile territorial restriction in the non- compete covenant was unreasonable and unenforceable. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that under the facts of this case, the territorial restriction in the non-compete covenant was reasonable and enforceable. The Court also found Knight's additional sustaining grounds to be without merit and therefore reinstated the special referee's order. View "Palmetto Mortuary v. Knight Systems" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of Defendants, corporate entities and individuals, at the close of Plaintiff’s case-in-chief in the bench trial held on her claims, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. On the scheduled day for trial, the district court noted that Plaintiff’s claims were “not entirely clear” but understood them to constitute a derivative action seeking forced dissolution of the corporations. Plaintiff’s evidence in support of her case focused primarily on allegations of corporate records mismanagement. At the close of Plaintiff’s case-in-chief, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law for Defendants. The court then granted an individual defendant attorney fees pursuant to the equity exception to the American Rule. The Supreme Court affirmed and granted Defendants’ request to declare Plaintiff a vexatious litigant, holding (1) the district court did not err in granting judgment in favor of Defendants; (2) the district court did not err in granting attorney fees; (3) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in the administration of the trial. View "McCann v. McCann" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania State Police employed Conard for 17 years as a 911 dispatcher. Conard left her employment in 2002 to move with her husband, who was on active military deployment. She had “outstanding personnel evaluations” but her supervisors, Tripp and Hile, had disagreements with Conard, arising from Conard’s earlier lawsuit. Conard returned to Pennsylvania in 2004 and reapplied for her position. The Police told Conard that she would be hired subject to a background check but ultimately did not offer her employment. Conard alleges that she was told that Hile and Tripp caused rejection of her application. Conard filed an administrative charge of gender discrimination, then filed her initial civil rights action, alleging retaliation. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal. Conard alleges that in the following years, she was unable to obtain employment because the defendants gave prospective employers “negative, false, and defamatory” statements in response to reference requests and stated that “[she] was not eligible to return.” The district court held that most of Conard’s claims were barred, having been adjudicated in her prior action, and dismissed her retaliation claim. The Third Circuit reversed as to Conard’s First Amendment retaliation claim. The framework for First Amendment claims brought by government employees against their employers does not apply to Conard’s claim, because the speech which Conard alleges triggered the retaliation—filing administrative complaints and a lawsuit—occurred after she had left her employment. While significant time passed between Conard’s earlier complaint and the alleged retaliation, there is no bright-line rule for the time that may pass between protected speech and actionable retaliation. View "Conard v. Pennsylvania State Police" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's dismissal of a Chapter 11 petition filed by the former board members of Sino. The panel held that the bankruptcy court properly dismissed the action because plaintiffs lacked corporate authority under Nevada law when they filed the petition where a receiver appointed by the Nevada state court already had removed them from the corporation's board of directors. Therefore, plaintiffs were not authorized to file the petition on behalf of the corporation. View "Sino Clean Energy, Inc. v. Seiden" on Justia Law