Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland
Oakland businesses must obtain a business tax certificate and pay business license taxes each year, based on the type of activities in which the business is engaged. A separate business tax certificate is required for each activity of the business unless the activity comprises less than 20 percent of the total gross receipts of the business. City tax authorities determine the appropriate business tax classifications based on the information reported by the taxpayer. Host held Port Department permits to occupy space and operate food, beverage, retail, and duty-free concessions at Oakland International Airport. The permits authorized Host to sublease its space to other parties with consent. In 2015, based on an audit of Host’s financial records, an auditor determined that Host owed Oakland unpaid business taxes, penalties, interest, and fees for rental income from subleases,2006-2015. Host had obtained a business certificate and paid business tax for its retail activities, but not for subleasing.Host unsuccessfully appealed, asserting that it was engaged only in retail sales (not commercial subleasing), that the 20 percent exception applied, and that Oakland could not collect some of the back taxes because of the statute of limitations. The Board, the trial court, and the court of appeal upheld the determination of a $371,195.40 tax liability. View "Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law
Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC
Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo
In 2019, Mallet learned that Bundy was its newest competitor in the sale of baking release agents, the lubricants that allow baked goods to readily separate from the containers in which they are made. Bundy was well-known for other commercial baking products when it launched a new subsidiary, Synova, to sell baking release agents. Synova hired two Mallet employees, both of whom had substantial access to Mallet’s proprietary information. That information from Mallet helped Synova rapidly develop, market, and sell release agents to Mallet’s customers.Mallet sued, asserting the misappropriation of its trade secrets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction. restraining Bundy, Synova, and those employees from competing with Mallet. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of what, if any, equitable relief is warranted and what sum Mallet should be required to post in a bond as “security … proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” A preliminary injunction predicated on trade secret misappropriation must adequately identify the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets. If the district court decides that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted, the injunction must be sufficiently specific in its terms and narrowly tailored in its scope. View "Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo" on Justia Law
Givago Growth, LLC v. iTech AG, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners' amended complaint against iTech AG, LLC and Robbins Law Group, PLLC (collectively, Appellees) alleging malicious abuse of process, slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, and civil conspiracy arising out of the filing of a lis pendens, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining Appellees' demurrers.In their demurrers to Petitioners' complaint, Appellees argued that the filing of a lis pendens is entitle to absolute privilege and that the complaint dd not plead valid claims for slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, or civil conspiracy. The circuit court sustained the demurrers on the basis that the information contained in a memorandum of lis pendens is subject to absolute privilege. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the information contained in the lis pendens was not sufficiently "relevant and pertinent to the matter under inquiry" for absolute privilege to apply in this case. View "Givago Growth, LLC v. iTech AG, LLC" on Justia Law
Gray v. Dignity Health
Gray received emergency medical care at St. Mary Medical Center, owned and operated by Dignity Health. He received a bill that included an “ ‘ER LEVEL 2 W/PROCEDU’ ” charge. Gray claims Dignity’s failure to disclose, before providing emergency medical treatment, that its bill for emergency services would include such a charge—either by posting “signage in and around” the emergency department or “verbally during the patients’ registration process” —is an unfair business practice under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and unlawful under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA).The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Gray does not claim that by including an ER Charge in its billing, Dignity violated any of the extensive state and federal statutory and regulatory laws governing the disclosure of hospital billing information and the treatment of persons presenting for treatment at an emergency department. Nor does he take issue with the hospital’s “chargemaster” amount for the Level 2 ER Charge, which his medical insurance largely covered. View "Gray v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law
McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc.
McKeon has sold “MACK’S” earplugs to retail consumers since the 1960s. In the 1980s, Honeywell's predecessor began marketing and selling MAX-brand earplugs to distributors. The brand names are phonetically identical. In 1995, McKeon sued. The parties entered a settlement agreement that the district court approved by consent decree. To prevent customer confusion, Honeywell agreed not to sell its MAX-brand earplugs into the “Retail Market” but could continue to sell its earplugs in “the Industrial Safety Market and elsewhere." The agreement and the consent decree never contemplated the internet. In 2017, McKeon complained about sales of MAX-brand earplugs on Amazon and other retail websites.The district court ruled in favor of McKeon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed and remanded. Laches is available to Honeywell as an affirmative defense but does not apply to these facts. Parties subject to consent decrees cannot scale their prohibited conduct over time, using minor undetected violations to justify later larger infringements. Honeywell did not establish that McKeon should have discovered the breaching conduct before Honeywell drastically increased online sales. McKeon’s interpretation of the consent decree is the better reading. Concluding that Amazon is a “retail establishment” makes sense given the parties’ intent. View "McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
Khalaf v. Dept. of Rev.
Rami Khalaf (“taxpayer”) was in the business of buying products for customers in the United Arab Emirates, primarily all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). He sought to claim certain business deductions on his 2013 income tax return. As relevant here, those included travel expenses that taxpayer had incurred on trips to the Emirates, and the cost of a dune buggy that taxpayer had purchased for use as a demonstration model. The Department of Revenue rejected those deductions. The Tax Court agreed with the department on those points, holding that the travel expenses were not deductible, because they were not sufficiently documented, and that the dune buggy was not deductible because it counted as inventory. Taxpayer appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court's judgment. View "Khalaf v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Washington Bankers Ass’n v. Dep’t of Revenue
This case involves the constitutionality of a business and occupation (B&O) tax. In 2019, the Washington state legislature imposed an additional 1.2 percent B&O tax on financial institutions with a consolidated net income of at least $1 billion. The tax applied to any financial institution meeting this threshold regardless of whether it was physically located in Washington, and it was apportioned to income from Washington business activity. The Washington Supreme Court found that because the tax applied equally to in- and out-of-state institutions and was limited to Washington-related income, it did not discriminate against interstate commerce. The Court therefore reversed the trial court and upheld the constitutionality of the tax. View "Washington Bankers Ass'n v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law
RTS Shearing v. BNI Coal
RTS Shearing, LLC (“RTS”) appealed the dismissal of its action with prejudice after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant BNI Coal, Ltd. (“BNI”). RTS provided rock crushing services for use on various construction projects. BNI operated a coal mine near Center, North Dakota. In February 2019, RTS filed suit against BNI, claiming breach of contract after BNI canceled purchase orders for RTS to provide rock-crushing services to BNI. BNI asserted it exercised its right to cancel the balance of the purchase orders under the Terms and Conditions that were incorporated by reference in the purchase orders. In January 2020, BNI moved for summary judgment, arguing RTS’s breach-of-contract claim failed and the action should have been dismissed because the two purchase orders at issue had also incorporated BNI’s standard “Terms and Conditions,” which allowed for the cancellation. In August 2020, the district court held a hearing on BNI’s motion. The court granted summary judgment in favor of BNI and dismissed RTS’s action with prejudice. Before the North Dakota Supreme Court, RTS argued the district court erred by entering summary judgment dismissing its complaint for breach of contract. The dispositive issue was whether BNI’s separate “Terms and Conditions” were incorporated by reference into the March 2015 and July 2015 purchase orders. On this record, the Supreme Court concluded as a matter of law the undisputed facts established that both RTS and BNI had knowledge of and assented to the incorporated terms referenced in the purchase orders and that RTS was not excused from the Terms and Conditions merely on the basis of its failure to request and review a copy from BNI before performing under the purchase orders. The district court, therefore, did not err in granting BNI’s summary judgment motion. View "RTS Shearing v. BNI Coal" on Justia Law
Missakian v. Amusement Industry, Inc.
Alevy was an owner, officer, and board member of Amusement, a real estate company, engaged in the ongoing Stern Litigation. In 2010, Alevy offered Missakian employment as in-house counsel at Amusement, including working on the Stern Litigation. Under the Oral Contract, Missakian would receive a salary of $325,000, and, after the Stern Litigation ended, Missakian would receive a bonus of $6,250 for each month he had worked on that litigation plus 10 percent of the recovery, excluding ordinary litigation costs. The parties exchanged multiple written drafts but never signed a written contract. Missakian left Amusement in 2014. The Stern Litigation settled months later. Amusement received $26 million. Missakian never received the Monthly Bonus or the Stern Litigation Bonus.A jury issued a verdict in favor of Missakian on the claims for breach of oral contract and promissory fraud and made special verdict findings in favor of Alevy on promissory fraud. The trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on Missakian’s promissory fraud claim against Amusement.The court of appeal reversed. The Oral Contract is void under Business and Professions Code section 6147, 2 which requires contingency fee agreements to be in writing. The jury’s special verdict on promissory fraud was inconsistent because it found Alevy did not make a false promise, but that Amusement (acting only through Alevy) did. Because the court cannot choose between the jury’s inconsistent responses, the court should have ordered a new trial. View "Missakian v. Amusement Industry, Inc." on Justia Law