Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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Wanke, Industrial, Commercial, Residential, Inc. (Wanke) was a company that installed waterproofing systems. It sued Scott Keck and another of its former employees in 2008 for trade secret misappropriation after they left Wanke to form a competing business, WP Solutions. The parties entered into a stipulated settlement and later litigated Keck's alleged breach of that settlement agreement. To collect, Wanke filed a creditor's suit against third party AV Builder Corp. (AVB) to recover $109,327 that AVB owed WP Solutions in relation to five construction subcontracts. Following a bench trial, the court entered judgment in Wanke's favor for $83,418.94 after largely rejecting AVB's setoff claims. Invoking assignment principles, AVB contended: (1) Wanke lacked the ability to sue given judgment debtor WP Solutions's corporate suspension; (2) Wanke's suit was untimely under section 708.230 of the Code of Civil Procedure; and (3) the trial court erred in denying its request for warranty setoffs under section 431.70. Rejecting each of these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment View "Wanke, Industrial, Commercial, etc. v. AV Builder Corp." on Justia Law

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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act bars certain uses of an “automatic telephone dialing system,” which it defines as equipment with the capacity “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” as well as the capacity to dial those numbers AT&T’s “Customer Rules Feedback Tool,” a device that sends surveys to customers who have interacted with AT&T’s customer service department, exclusively dials numbers stored in a customer database. AT&T sent unwanted automated text messages to Gadelhak. Gadelhak brought a putative class action under the Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1). The district court held and the Seventh Circuit affirmed that AT&T’s system did not qualify as an “automatic telephone dialing system.” While characterizing the Act as a grammatical nightmare, the court concluded that the phrase “using a random or sequential number generator” modifies both “store” and “produce.” AT&T’s system neither stores nor produces numbers using a random or sequential number generator. View "Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Michelle Ryerson appealed district court decisions entered during the dissolution and winding up of West Foothills TIC, a partnership in which she was a partner. Specifically, Ryerson argued the district court misapplied the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act by entering an order requiring liquidation of the partnership’s real property by sale at a fixed price, and by allowing her former partner the opportunity to purchase the property from the partnership. Ryerson also argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of the real property’s value as of the date of dissolution because, as the real property’s owner, she was presumed competent to testify about its value. Finally, Ryerson argued the district court erred in dismissing her counterclaim seeking a determination that she was entitled to 50 percent of the partnership’s profits upon dissolution. Joseph Guenther, the other partner in West Foothills TIC, cross-appealed, arguing the district court misapplied a provision of the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act by determining that it could not allow Guenther to purchase the partnership’s real property without the consent of the partnership’s creditors. Guenther also argued the district court erred in declining to award him attorney’s fees because he was the prevailing party and the gravamen of his claims was a commercial transaction. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding: (1) the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act required the sale of partnership property upon dissolution unless otherwise agreed by the parties; and (2) the district court erred in fixing the price at which the property was to be listed for sale. The Court reversed the district court’s order attributing 100 percent of post-dissolution increases in equity in the partnership’s real property to Guenther. The Court affirmed the district court’s order denying attorney’s fees. View "Guenther v. Ryerson" on Justia Law

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For tax reasons ISN Software Corporation wanted to convert from a C corporation to an S corporation. But four of its eight stockholders, representing about 25 percent of the outstanding stock, could not qualify as S Corporation stockholders. ISN sought advice from Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A. (RLF) about its options. RLF advised ISN that before a conversion ISN could use a merger to cash out some or all of the four stockholders. The cashed-out stockholders could then accept ISN’s cash-out offer or exercise appraisal rights under Delaware law. ISN did not proceed with the conversion, but decided to use a merger to cash out three of the four non-qualifying stockholders. After ISN completed the merger, RLF notified ISN that its advice might not have been correct. All four stockholders, including the remaining stockholder whom ISN wanted to exclude, were entitled to appraisal rights. ISN decided not to try and unwind the merger, instead proceeding with the merger and notified all four stockholders they were entitled to appraisal. ISN and RLF agreed that RLF would continue to represent ISN in any appraisal action. Three of the four stockholders, including the stockholder ISN wanted to exclude, eventually demanded appraisal. Years later, when things did not turn out as ISN had hoped (the appraised value of ISN stock ended up substantially higher than ISN had reserved for), ISN filed a legal malpractice claim against RLF. The Superior Court dismissed ISN’s August 1, 2018 complaint on statute of limitations grounds. The court found that the statute of limitations expired three years after RLF informed ISN of the erroneous advice, or, at the latest, three years after the stockholder ISN sought to exclude demanded appraisal. On appeal, ISN argued its legal malpractice claim did not accrue until after the appraisal action valued ISN’s stock because only then could ISN claim damages. Although it applied a different analysis, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the Superior Court that the statute of limitations began to run in January 2013. By the time ISN filed its malpractice claim on August 1, 2018, the statute of limitations had expired. Thus, the Superior Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "ISN Software Corporation v. Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's complaint for a writ of prohibition and dismissed as moot the motions Appellant filed in connection with the complaint, holding that the court of appeals correctly dismissed the complaint. In his complaint, Appellant sought to vacate charging orders and receivership orders concerning his membership interests in two limited liability companies, asserting that the orders exceeded the authority of Henry County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Collier. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint, concluding that Judge Collier did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction to enter a charging order or to appoint a receiver. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Judge Collier had subject matter jurisdiction to enter a charging order and to appoint a receiver, Appellant did not show that the judge patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction. View "State ex rel. Kerr v. Collier" on Justia Law

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Grayson does business under the name Gire Roofing. Grayson and Edwin Gire were indicted for visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1546 and harboring and employing unauthorized aliens, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii). On paper, Gire had no relationship to Grayson as a corporate entity. He was not a stockholder, officer, or an employee. He managed the roofing (Grayson’s sole business), as he had under the Gire Roofing name for more than 20 years. The corporate papers identified Grayson’s president and sole stockholder as Young, Gire’s girlfriend. Gire, his attorney, and the government all represented to the district court that Gire was Grayson’s president. The court permitted Gire to plead guilty on his and Grayson’s behalf. Joint counsel represented both defendants during a trial that resulted in their convictions and a finding that Grayson’s headquarters was forfeitable. Despite obtaining separate counsel before sentencing, neither Grayson nor Young ever complained about Gire’s or prior counsel’s representations. Neither did Grayson object to the indictment, the plea colloquy, or the finding that Grayson had used its headquarters for harboring unauthorized aliens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Grayson identified numerous potential errors in the proceedings none are cause for reversal. Grayson has not shown that it was deprived of any right to effective assistance of counsel that it may have had and has not demonstrated that the court plainly erred in accepting the guilty plea. The evidence is sufficient to hold Grayson vicariously liable for Gire’s crimes. View "United States v. Grayson Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case involving a final judgment entered against a professional corporation for the fraudulent activity of one of its associates, the Supreme Judicial Court held that, in the unique circumstances of this case, Plaintiff, who was defrauded by the associate, may pursue successor liability against the sole proprietorship of Defendant, the sole shareholder and officer of the professional corporation. Plaintiff was defrauded by the corporation's associate in a mortgage scam. Defendant was the sole shareholder and officer of the corporation, RKelley-Law, P.C. (the P.C.). After the entry of final judgment against the P.C. Defendant voted to wind up the corporation and, that same day, began operating his law practice as a sole proprietorship. Thereafter, the P.C. was placed into bankruptcy proceedings. Because the P.C. had no assets, Plaintiff sought to recover from Defendant personally. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the doctrine of successor liability could not be applied where the successor in interest was a natural person rather than a corporate entity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that because Defendant's sole proprietorship was a mere continuation of the former professional corporation Plaintiff may pursue successor liability against the proprietorship. View "Smith v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Trustees of three employee benefit funds filed suit against Charps and others, alleging that defendants breached collective bargaining agreements by not contributing to the employee benefit funds for work performed by the affiliates, in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, awarding them attorney's fees and costs. The Eighth Circuit held that defendants did not owe contributions for the affiliates' work where the trustees have not shown a genuine issue that the defendant companies formed a relationship of alter ego, joint venture, or joint enterprise. Furthermore, the collective bargaining agreements did not require defendants to contribute for the work of Charps' affiliates. The court also held that the trustees did not meet their burden in opposing summary judgment on their claim that the district court failed to address Charps' liability for contributions based on its own employees' work, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying, as duplicative, the trustees' motion to compel production of the spreadsheets. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in 18-3007, but reversed and remanded in 19-1206. On remand, the district court should award costs that are taxable under 28 U.S.C. 1821 and 1920. In regard to the nontaxable costs, the district court may determine whether they may be awarded as attorney's fees. View "Johnson v. Charps Welding & Fabricating, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Warner Wiggins appeals a circuit court's order compelling him to arbitrate his claims against Warren Averett, LLC. Warren Averett was an accounting firm. Eastern Shore Children's Clinic, P.C. ("Eastern Shore"), a pediatric medical practice, was a client of Warren Averett. In September 2010, while Wiggins, who was a medical doctor, was a shareholder and employee of Eastern Shore, Warren Averett and Eastern Shore entered an agreement pursuant to which Warren Averett was to provide accounting services to Eastern Shore ("the contract"). The contract contained an arbitration clause. Thereafter, Wiggins and Warren Averett became involved in a billing dispute related to the preparation of Wiggins's personal income-tax returns. In 2017, Wiggins filed a single-count complaint alleging "accounting malpractice" against Warren Averett. Warren Averett filed an answer to Wiggins's complaint, asserting, among other things, that Wiggins's claims were based on the contract and were thus subject to the arbitration clause. A majority of the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the determination of whether Wiggins' claims were covered under the terms of the arbitration clause was delegated to an arbitrator to decide. Therefore, it affirmed the trial court's order. View "Warner W. Wiggins v. Warren Averett, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bentley, the owner of Trucking, rear-ended the Kolchinskys’ car while driving a tractor-trailer through Illinois. The Kolchinskys were severely injured. Bentley's deliveries had been arranged by WD, which instructed Bentley to transport milk from Indiana to its destination. His route was up to him. Trucking’s agreement with WD provided that Bentley was an independent contractor. When Trucking accepted a job from WD, it agreed to call the broker daily with a status update, protect the freight, notify the broker of any damage, and inform the broker of delivery. Tucking was responsible for determining delivery times; WD reserved the right to withhold any resulting damages. The agreement required Trucking to pay its employees and provide and maintain its own tractor, fuel, insurance, licenses, and permits. The Kolchinskys sued Bentley; citing theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability, the Kolchinskys also sued Trucking and WD The judge granted the defendants judgment, concluding that the driver was an independent contractor so the Kolchinskys could not hold the companies responsible for his alleged negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Courts applying Illinois law consistently have declined to find an agency relationship when a company hires an independent driver to deliver a load to designated persons at designated hours but does not reserve the right to control the manner of delivery. WD had no part in the transaction leading to Bentley’s fateful trip View "Kolchinsky v. Western Dairy Transport, LLC" on Justia Law