Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

by
Techno Lite filed suit against defendants, alleging claims for breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with contractual relationships, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, conversion, injunctive relief, and constructive trust. Defendants cross-complained against Techno Lite and several others. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal rejected defendants' argument that they could not be found liable for fraud because their promise not to compete against their current employer was void under Business and Professions Code section 16600. In this case, a promise not to compete with an employer while employed is not void, and defendants had a duty of disclosure. View "Techno Lite, Inc. v. Emcod, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Blasingames filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. CJV purchased their debts to two banks, each arising from personal guarantees made to secure loans to businesses that failed. The Blasingames claimed that they owned no real property, owned personal property worth $5,700, and had a total monthly income of $888. The bankruptcy trustee and CJV successfully argued against the discharge of their debts. The bankruptcy court noted that the debtors had repeatedly concealed assets, including through the use of closely-held, interconnected corporations and trusts. CJV sued the Blasingames, their children, and those entities and trusts. CJV prevailed on two fraudulent transfer claims for transfers of money and of real property to trusts. CJV appealed the dismissal of claims based on reverse alter ego or reverse veil piercing; the denial CJV’s motion to certify to the Tennessee Supreme Court the question of whether Tennessee would recognize such theories; and the denial of CJV’s motion for leave to amend its complaint to add to its legal theories that the trusts were “self-settled.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding “no persuasive data” to conclude that Tennessee’s high court would embrace the reverse piercing claims; reverse piercing is not a novel or unsettled area of law and certification was unnecessary. The failure of CJV to realize it could have made claims under a self-settled theory is not an adequate reason for a nearly five-year delay; the prejudice to defendants was apparent and substantial. View "Church Joint Venture, L.P. v. Earl Blasingame" on Justia Law

by
Lowe's Home Centers sought reimbursement of state sales taxes and Business and Occupation ("B&O") taxes from the Washington Department of Revenue ("DOR") because it contracted with banks to offer private-label credit cards to its customers, and agreed to repay the banks for losses it sustained when customers defaulted on their accounts. RCW 82.08.050 provided that a seller must collect and remit sales taxes to the State; for sellers unable to recoup sales taxes from buyers, RCW 82.08.037(1) provided that sellers could claim a deduction "for sales taxes previously paid on bad debts." In a split decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of reimbursement. After its review, the Washington Supreme Court held that although banks were involved in the credit transaction, Lowe's was still the seller burdened with the loss from its customers' defaults, including their nonpayment of the sales taxes. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Lowe's Home Ctrs., LLC v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
At issue was the promulgation of a novel rule by the Washington Department of Ecology addressing climate change. Specifically, the Washington Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Washington Clean Air Act granted the Department broad authority to establish and enforce greenhouse gas emission standards for businesses and utilities that did not directly emit greenhouse gases, but whose products ultimately did. The Department claimed and exercised such authority in promulgating the rule at issue. The Supreme Court held that by its plain language and structure, the Act limited the applicability of emissions standards to actual emitters. "Ecology's attempt to expand the scope of emission standards to regulate nonemitters therefore exceeds the regulatory authority granted by the Legislature." The Court invalidated the Rule to the extent that it exceeded the Department's regulatory authority, while recognizing the Department could continue to enforce the Rule in its authorized applications to actual emitters. View "Ass'n of Wash. Bus. v. Dep't of Ecology" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to Veritas Steel, LLC on Lunda Construction Company's successor liability claim, holding that neither the de facto merger nor the mere continuation exceptions to the rule against successor liability applied in this case to impose successor liability on Veritas, and Lunda forfeited its argument that the fraudulent transaction exception applied. Lunda alleged that Veritas and third-party defendants took unfair advantage of DPM Bridge LLC's loan defaults with the intent to gain ownership of PDM's steel fabrication business. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Veritas on the successor liability claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Lunda did not establish a genuine issue of material fact as to identity of ownership between Veritas and PDM, it could not satisfy the de facto merger or mere continuation exceptions to the rule against successor liability; and (2) by not raising the fraudulent transaction exception before the court of appeals, Lunda forfeited its claim for successor liability based on that exception. View "Veritas Steel, LLC v. Lunda Construction Co." on Justia Law

by
After John Worthen amassed over eighteen million dollars in unpaid tax liabilities, the federal government placed liens on properties it claimed belonged to his alter egos or nominees. Following a court- ordered sale of the properties, Worthen sought to exercise a statutory right to redeem under Utah state law. The district court concluded there were no redemption rights following sales under 26 U.S.C. 7403. The Tenth Circuit concurred, finding neither section 7403 nor 28 U.S.C. 2001, which governed the sale of realty under court order, explicitly provided for redemption rights. Moreover, federal tax proceedings provided sufficient protection for taxpayers and third parties. View "Arlin Geophysical Company v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, Uber Technologies, Inc. acquired Ottomotto LLC to gain more traction in the autonomous vehicle space, hiring key employees from Google's autonomous vehicle program. Though steps were taken to ensure the former Google employees did not misuse Google's confidential information, it eventually came to light Google's proprietary information had indeed been misused. Uber settled Google's misappropriation claims by issuing additional Uber stock to Google, valued at $245 million. An Uber stockholder and former Uber employee filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery against the directors who approved the Otto acquisition. Plaintiff claimed the directors ignored the alleged theft of Google’s intellectual property and failed to investigate pre-closing diligence that would have revealed problems with the transaction. According to plaintiff, the board should not have relied on the CEO’s representations that the transaction had the necessary protections because he and Uber had a history of misusing the intellectual property of others. Defendants responded by moving to dismiss the complaint under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1. As they asserted, the plaintiff first had to make a demand on the board of directors before pursuing litigation on the corporation’s behalf. The Court of Chancery found that a majority of the Uber board of directors could have fairly considered the demand, and dismissed the complaint. The Delaware Supreme Court found, as did the Court of Chancery, that a majority of the board was disinterested because it had no real threat of personal liability due to Uber’s exculpatory charter provision. And a majority of the board was also independent of the one interested director. Therefore, the Supreme COurt affirmed the Court of Chancery's judgment dismissing the complaint with prejudice. View "McElrath v. Kalanick, et al." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court’s review centered on whether, under their respective bylaws, two closed-end investment funds, BlackRock Credit Allocation Income Trust (“BTZ”) and BlackRock New York Municipal Bond Trust (“BQH”, and with BTZ, the “Trusts”), properly excluded their shareholder, Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd. (“Saba”), from presenting its slate of dissident trustee nominees for election at the respective annual meetings. The Court of Chancery held that such exclusion was improper, reasoning that the supplemental questionnaires that Saba’s nominees were asked to complete, exceeded the bylaws’ scope and, thus, the Trusts were “not permitted to rely on the five-day deadline for Saba’s compliance with that request.” It also held that laches did not bar Saba’s claims for equitable relief. On appeal, Appellants-Trusts contended the Court of Chancery erred by issuing an injunction requiring the Trusts to count the votes for Saba’s nominees at the respective annual meetings, since they claimed that Saba’s nominees were ineligible for election because of their failure to timely provide supplemental information in accordance with the clear and unambiguous bylaws. Appellants also contended the court erred in holding that Saba’s claims for equitable relief were not barred by laches. On appeal, the parties continued to dispute whether the Questionnaire was the type of “necessary” and “reasonably requested” subsequent information that falls within the meaning of Article I, Section 7(e)(ii) of the Trusts’ bylaws. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the Vice Chancellor that Section 7(e)(ii) was clear and unambiguous, but disagreed that Saba should have been excused from complying with the Bylaws’ clear deadline. Further, the Court affirmed the Vice Chancellor’s holding as to laches. View "BlackRock Credit Allocation Income Trust, et al. v. Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was whether a federal court sitting in Oklahoma had specific jurisdiction over Dr. Scott Jolly, a dentist and Arkansas resident, and his Limited Liability practice, Jolly Dental Group, LLC. Dental Dynamics, LLC argued that three isolated business transactions and an allegedly fraudulent contract were sufficient to establish federal court jurisdiction over its breach of contract and fraud claims. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding Jolly Dental's contacts with Oklahoma were "too random, fortuitous, and attenuated" to establish personal jurisdiction there. With respect to Denta; Dynamics' fraud claim, the Court concluded Dental Dynamics failed to show conduct sufficiently targeted to Oklahoma to establish personal jurisdiction there. View "Dental Dynamics v. Jolly Dental Group" on Justia Law

by
Johnson rented her restaurant to a private party. For unknown reasons, individuals unaffiliated with her or the party emerged from a vehicle that night and shot at the restaurant. Police were called during the shooting but never apprehended the shooters. Less than two days later, Saginaw City Manager Morales issued Johnson a notice ordering the suspension of all business activity related to her restaurant under an ordinance that permits such suspensions “in the interest of the public health, morals, safety, or welfare[.]” There was hearing three days later. More than two months after the hearing, Human Resources Director Jordan upheld the suspension. Johnson filed suit with a motion for a temporary restraining order and, alternatively, a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Morales from sitting on the appeal panel expected to review Jordan’s decision. The district court denied that motion. The appeal panel, which did not include Morales, held a hearing and affirmed Jordan’s decision upholding the suspension. The Sixth Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of Johnson’s burden-shifting, substantive due process, and equal-protection claims. Johnson adequately alleged selective enforcement and pled that the city lacked a rational basis to suspend her license. Johnson has plausibly alleged that the procedures afforded to Johnson fell short of constitutional requirements. View "Johnson v. Morales" on Justia Law