Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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The dispute that arose in this case concerned an easement that lead from the Glenn Highway over residential property to a parcel of land used as a jumping-off point for a Matanuska Glacier tourism business. After years of disagreement over issues related to road maintenance, traffic, safety, and trespass on the homeowner’s property by visitors to the glacier, the homeowner erected a sign stating “No Glacier Access” near the entrance to the road. The business owner filed suit, and the homeowner counterclaimed for defamation based on inflammatory allegations made in the complaint. The superior court largely ruled in favor of the business owner, holding that he had a right to use the easement for his glacier tourism business, that his road maintenance work was reasonably necessary and did not unreasonably damage the homeowner’s property despite minor increases in the width of the road, and that the “No Glacier Access” sign had unreasonably interfered with his use of the easement. The superior court also dismissed the defamation counterclaims and awarded attorney’s fees to the business owner. Finding no reversible error in the superior court’s judgment, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in full. View "Wayson v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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Byram Café Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary judgment motion. BCG sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The issue the appeal presented was whether the Tuckers could survive a motion for summary judgment without producing evidence that a dangerous condition existed, that BCG caused the hypothetical dangerous condition, and that BCG knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. As a matter of law, the Supreme Court found the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s order. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Harrison Co., L.L.C. executed a credit agreement with A-Z Wholesalers, Inc. to supply A-Z with tobacco products and other goods. Barkat Ali personally guaranteed A-Z’s payment. A-Z fell behind $2.6 million on payments for the goods it received, so Harrison sued for breach of contract and breach of guaranty actions against A-Z and Ali. The district court granted summary judgment for Harrison.A-Z and Ali argue there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the sales that Harrison is seeking payment for were, in reality, sales from Imperial following the merger of the two companies. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Imperial and Harrison are—and always have been—separate entities with their own employees, customers, and warehouses. As the district court explained, A-Z and Ali do not allege, let alone present evidence, “that A-Z experienced any changes in ordering procedures, pricing, delivery schedules, type or brand of goods, inventory availability, or any other indicia that . . . [shows] it was no longer doing business with Harrison.” Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Harrison Company v. A-Z Whsle" on Justia Law

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The 2008 financial crisis caused GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. In Europe, Fiat faced similar troubles. Fiat CEO Marchionne forged a relationship with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Fiat negotiated a partial purchase of Chrysler. Chrysler and the UAW agreed to Marchionne’s request to jettison certain traditional union protections. The companies emerged from bankruptcy with the UAW large percentages of their equity.GM alleges that Marchionne subsequently implemented a bribery scheme to revive Chrysler and harm GM. Fiat acquired the UAW’s stake in Chrysler. The new entity, “FCA,” allegedly “began a long-running intentional scheme of improper payments" to UAW officials … to influence the collective bargaining process, providing Chrysler with labor peace and competitive advantages. GM rejected Marchionne's proposal for a merger in 2015; although bribed UAW executives pressed GM to agree. During subsequent collective bargaining, the UAW and FCA allegedly conspired “to force enormous costs on GM.”In 2017, the Justice Department criminally charged numerous FCA executives and UAW officials. Several entered guilty pleas. FCA pleaded guilty and agreed to a $30 million fine. The UAW agreed to a consent decree, requiring federal monitoring.GM sued FCA, Fiat, and individuals, asserting RICO claims, 18 U.S.C. 1962(b), (c), and (d). The district court dismissed. Assuming that FCA committed RICO violations, they were either indirect or too remote to have proximately caused GM’s alleged injuries. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first rejecting an argument that the NLRB had exclusive jurisdiction. The court noted the existence of a more “immediate victim,” the FCA workers, “better situated to sue.” GM has not alleged that it would have received the same benefits as FCA absent the corruption. View "General Motors, LLC v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hackers compromised customer-payment information at several Wendy’s franchisee restaurants. Shareholders took legal action against Wendy’s directors and officers on the corporation’s behalf to remedy any wrongdoing that might have allowed the breach to occur. Three shareholder derivative legal efforts ensued—two actions and one pre-suit demand—leading to a series of mediation sessions. Two derivative actions (filed by Graham and Caracci) were consolidated and resulted in a settlement, which the district court approved after appointing one of the settling shareholder’s attorneys as the lead counsel. Those decisions drew unsuccessful objections from Caracci, who had not participated in the latest settlement discussions. No other shareholder objected. Caracci appealed decisions made by the district court, which together had the effect of dramatically reducing Caracci’s entitlement to an attorney’s fees award.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court acted within the bounds of its wide discretion to manage shareholder litigation in its appointment of a lead counsel, its approval of the settlement, and its interlocutory orders on discovery and the mediation privilege. View "Graham v. Peltz" on Justia Law

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The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing this complaint alleging several breaches related to conduct allegedly occurring in connection with the ownership and operation of a pet grooming business, holding that several causes of action were improperly dismissed.The complaint in this case alleged claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of the duty of care, conversion, and unjust enrichment, and a separate cause of action for punitive damages. The circuit court dismissed the complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court largely reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff properly instituted this action against Defendant; (2) the circuit court erred in dismissing the causes of action for breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of the duty of care, conversion, and unjust enrichment; and (3) Plaintiff's request for punitive damages was sufficiently pled. View "Mach v. Connors" on Justia Law

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Taizhou, a Chinese manufacturer, entered into a Cooperation Agreement with Z Outdoor, a Wisconsin company owned by Casual Products: Taizhou would manufacture outdoor furniture and other related items for Z Outdoor to sell to customers. Z Outdoor eventually stopped paying Taizhou. The Cornings, on behalf of Z Outdoor, made false statements about future business, forthcoming payments, and causes for the delays. Taizhou continued to fill customer orders without receiving compensation. In 2018, AFG (a Wisconsin LLC also owned by Casual) started submitting purchase orders to Taizhou. AFG never signed the Cooperation Agreement. Taizhou filled the orders and sent AFG invoices. AFG eventually stopped paying Taizhou and made false statements regarding payment delays. The total due from Z Outdoor and AFG accrued to $14 million for purchase orders sent, 2017-2019.The district court entered a default judgment against the corporate defendants on Taizhou's contract claims but ruled against Taizhou on unjust enrichment, fraud, and conversion claims, finding the fraud and conversion claims barred by Wisconsin’s economic loss doctrine and q “mere repackaging of Taizhou’s ‘straightforward breach of contract claim.’” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Any fraud was interwoven with the Cooperation Agreement, so the economic loss doctrine applies. To the extent the damages amounted to lost profits or lost business, those are also economic losses under Wisconsin law. View "Taizhou Yuanda Investment Group Co., Ltd. v. Z Outdoor Living, LLC" on Justia Law

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MSPA Claims 1 LLC—the assignee of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage Organization—sued Tower Hill Prime Insurance Company to recover a reimbursable payment. The district court granted Tower Hill’s motion for summary judgment because it determined that MSPA Claims 1’s suit was untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because it is at least “plausible” that the term “accrues” in Section 1658(a) incorporates an occurrence rule—in fact, and setting presumptions aside, the court wrote that it thinks that’s the best interpretation—that is how the court interprets it. Therefore, MSPA Claims 1’s cause of action accrued in 2012 when MSPA Claims 1’s assignor, Florida Healthcare, paid D.L.’s medical bills and became entitled to reimbursement through the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Because that was more than four years before MSPA Claims 1 filed suit in 2018, its suit is not timely under 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a). View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v. Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on an exclusionary clause in a commercial general liability insurance policy issued by Admiral Insurance Company (Admiral) to Richfield Window Coverings, LLC (Richfield). Richfield sold window coverage products, including blinds, to national retailers like Home Depot and provided retailers with machines to cut the blinds to meet the specifications of the retailers’ customers. Colleen Lorito, an employee of a Home Depot located in Nassau County, was injured while operating the blind cutting machine. She and her husband filed a civil action against Richfield, asserting claims for product liability, breach of warranty, and loss of spousal services. Admiral denied any obligation to defend or indemnify, asserting the claims were not covered under the policy based on the Designated New York Counties Exclusion of the insurance policy. Richfield filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to compel Admiral to defend it in the Lorito case and, if necessary, indemnify it against any monetary damages awarded to the plaintiffs. The Law Division granted summary judgment in favor of Admiral. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that “Richfield’s limited activities and operations have no causal relationship to the causes of action or allegations.” The Supreme Court found that the policy’s broad and unambiguous language made clear that a causal relationship was not required in order for the exclusionary clause to apply; rather, any claim “in any way connected with” the insured’s operations or activities in a county identified in the exclusionary clause was not covered under the policy. Richfield’s operations in an excluded county were alleged to be connected with the injuries for which recovery was sought, so the exclusion applied. Admiral had no duty to defend a claim that it is not contractually obligated to indemnify. View "Norman International, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Company " on Justia Law