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No fiduciary duty arises in a consumer transaction for the purchase of a whole life insurance policy based upon the advice of a financial advisor where the consumer purchasing the policy does not cede decision -making control over the purchase to the financial advisor. In 1995, Bryan Holland, a financial advisor for IDS Life Insurance Corporation, made an unsolicited telephone contact, a "cold call," to Eugene and Ruth Yenchi. At a subsequent meeting and for a fee of $350, Holland presented the Yenchis with a financial management proposal containing a notice that it had been prepared by "your American Express financial advisor" (Holland) and that "[alt your request, your American Express financial advisor can recommend products distributed by American Express Financial Advisors and its affiliates as investment alternatives for existing securities." The Proposal offered the Yenchis a number of general recommendations, including that they monitor monthly expenses, consolidate their debt, consider various savings plans, consolidate current life insurance policies into one policy, review long-term care coverage, keep accurate records for tax purposes (medical expenses and charitable contributions), transfer 401(k) funds into mutual funds, and continue estate planning with an attorney and their financial advisor. The Yenchis implemented some of these recommendations. In 2000, the Yenchis had their portfolio independently reviewed. Through this process, they were advised that Holland’s recommendations would be financially devastating to the Yenchis. In April 2001, the Yenchis sued Holland and his company, American Express Financial Services Corporation, American Express Financial Advisors Corporation, and IDS Life Insurance Company. The Yenchis' asserted claims of negligence/willful disregard, fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of the Uniform Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"), bad faith, negligent supervision, and breach of fiduciary duty. Of relevance here, with respect to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, the trial court held that no fiduciary relationship was established between the Yenchis and Holland because the Yenchis continued to make their own investment decisions. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that, consistent with its jurisprudence, no fiduciary duty arose in such a situation. Consequently, the Court reversed the Superior Court's decision to the contrary. View "Yenchi v. Ameriprise Financial" on Justia Law

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Hilliard owned a controlling interest in companies that owned radio stations. In 2003, the companies entered into a loan agreement with Wells Fargo, borrowing $18.9 million, secured by assets that exceeded $50 million. The loan was continuously in default after March 31, 2004. Although the agreement was amended several times, Wells Fargo never foreclosed. Hilliard sold his ranch and was attempting to sell radio stations when, without notice to Hilliard, Wells Fargo sold the loan to Atalaya. Atalay filed suit and was awarded judgments that resulted in Atalaya’s purchase of Hilliard’s companies in bankruptcies. Hilliard, now 78 years old, alleged that Wells Fargo took or assisted in taking his property for wrongful use, with intent to defraud, or by undue influence, violating Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.30(a)(1)(2), a provision of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The court dismissed, finding that Hilliard lacked standing. The court of appeals affirmed. Hilliard’s circular argument—that the duty breached by Wells Fargo was owed to him personally, and not just as a shareholder, because he is an elder and elder abuse is by definition a personal claim—ignores the fact that his claim does not originate in circumstances independent of his status as a shareholder in the companies. View "Hilliard v. Harbour" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed an amended stockholder derivative complaint alleging that the Qualcomm Inc. board’s knowing disregard for “red flags” resulted in violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cease-and-desist order. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under County of Chancery Rule 23.1 for failure to make a demand or allege that demand would be futile. The Court of Chancery granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Rule 23.1, holding that the complaint failed to allege demand futility as to count one for breach of fiduciary duty claim for improper oversight, count two for waste against the individual defendants, and count three for unjust enrichment against the individual defendants. View "In re Qualcomm Inc. FCPA Stockholder Derivative Litigation" on Justia Law

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Phoenix Pipeline filed a second amended complaint (SAC) alleging breach of contract claims related to SpaceX's failure to pay for its services from 2010 to October 2013. The trial court subsequently granted SpaceX's demurrer, which argued that the license issued to Phoenix Plumbing was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Business Code section 7031. The Court of Appeal held that Phoenix Pipeline's SAC failed to state a claim for construction related services because it did not allege that Phoenix Pipeline was a licensed contractor. The court explained that Phoenix Pipeline may not rely upon a license issued to another and that section 7031 was not limited to contracts with unsophisticated persons or homeowners. The court held, however, that Phoenix Pipeline adequately alleged that it provided some services for which no contractor license was necessary. Finally, the trial court acted within its discretion in declining to permit an amendment alleging that Phoenix Pipeline was an employee. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Phoenix Mechanical Pipeline, Inc. v. Space Exploration Technologies Corp." on Justia Law

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Norman and Elkin were the only shareholders of USM, a company that acquired and sold rights to radio frequencies. Norman held a minority interest and sought legal relief after he discovered that Elkin had transferred to another company the ownership of several frequencies purchased by USM, that Elkin had treated capital contributions as loans, and that Elkin had paid himself from USM funds without giving Norman any return on his minority investment. Despite two juries agreeing with Norman, verdicts in his favor were overturned. Most of his claims were held to be time-barred after the district court rejected his argument that a state court case he had brought to inspect USM’s books and records under the Delaware Code tolled the statute of limitations. Other claims were eliminated for insufficient evidence. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The district court erred in concluding that tolling of the statute of limitations is categorically inappropriate when a plaintiff has inquiry notice before initiating a books and records action in the Delaware courts and erred in vacating the jury’s award of nominal damages for one of Norman’s breach of contract claims. Norman’s fraud claim was not supported by sufficient proof of damages. View "Norman v. Elkin" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer whose employee sued for discrimination. The employer showed at trial that it fired the employee due to financial issues and the employee's performance issues. The employee could not rebut these reasons or otherwise show they were pretextual. View "DePaula v. Easter Seals El Mirador" on Justia Law

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Company sued two of its directors and entities associated with them after discovering that one of the entities had purchased mineral leases in an area where Company had been investigating the possibility of buying leases. A jury found that the directors breached their fiduciary duties to Company in two ways. The trial court awarded a constructive trust to Company on most of the leases in question and also required the disgorgement of money derived from past lease production revenues. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding that the directors breached their fiduciary duties by usurping a corporate opportunity; and (2) the pleadings were insufficient to support a claim for breach of fiduciary duty by undisclosed competition with Company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the constructive trust award was erroneous; and (2) there was no basis for the trial court to render judgment in favor of Company for money. View "Longview Energy Co. v. Huff Energy Fund, LP" on Justia Law

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In 2000, doctors Strohmyer, Naegele, and Mantler formed Papillion Family Medicine, P.C. (PFM). In 2013, Strohmyer provided notice that he was leaving PFM to start his own medical practice. Strohmyer then sued PFM, Naegele, and Mantler (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Defendants failed to “buy out” Strohmyer and pay associated director fees following his departure and improperly calculated the value of PFM’s stock, assets, and goodwill. Defendants counterclaimed. The district court found (1) PFM was not a corporation under the laws of Nebraska; (2) the buyout clause was so ambiguous as to be unenforceable; (3) the value of Strohmyer’s stock was $104,200; (4) Strohmyer was due $9,389 in unpaid compensation; and (5) Strohmyer damaged PFM in the amount of $30,673. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err in its valuation of Strohmyer’s shares, finding that PFM had no goodwill for which Strohmyer was entitled to compensation, and failing to award compensation for director fees and salary; but (2) erred in finding that Strohmyer breached a fiduciary duty by continuing to accept Medicaid patients, in holding Strohmyer liable for a physical assistant’s continuing treatment of Medicaid patients, and in its calculation of damages based on those claims. View "Strohmyer v. Papillion Family Medicine" on Justia Law

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ACI Worldwide Corp. sued Baldwin Hackett & Meeks, Inc., its cofounders, and other company principals (collectively, BHMI), alleging that BHMI misappropriated its trade secrets. BHMI counterclaimed, alleging that ACI tortiously interfered with a business relationship and violated provisions of Nbraska’s unlawful restraint of trade statutes. In 2014, a jury found against ACI on its misappropriation claim. In 2015, a jury found in favor of BHMI on all of its counterclaims. ACI then filed posttrial motions to vacate the jury’s judgments, reopen the evidence, and grant a new trial on the basis that ACI had discovered new evidence. The district court overruled ACI’s posttrial motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in overruling ACI’s motion to vacate the 2014 and 2015 judgments; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in awarding BHMI $2,732,962.50 in attorney fees. View "ACI Worldwide Corp. v. Baldwin Hackett & Meeks, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a breach-of-contract action between Marc Daniels, Sandra Daniels, Crocker & Associates, Inc., and Maxx Investments, LLC (collectively, “the Danielses”) and Dennis Crocker, Gail Crocker and Crocker, Ltd. (collectively, “the Crockers”). The Danielses entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (the “Agreement”) with the Crockers to acquire Crocker & Associates, Inc. (“C&A”). Within eighteen months of the sale, C&A lost a number of important contracts and its employees resigned. The Danielses sued the Crockers for failing to disclose all material information about C&A as required by the Agreement. The Crockers answered the suit and brought counterclaims. After extensive discovery, the trial court granted the Crockers’ motion for summary judgment on the Danielses’ claims against them. The Danielses now appeal the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Because the record contained a genuine issue as to material fact concerning the Danielses’ contract claims and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on these claims. Further, because the Court remanded these claims for a jury to determine if the Danielses were entitled to compensation, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the punitive damages claim. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Daniels v. Crocker" on Justia Law