Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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Luv N’ Care, Ltd. (“LNC”), a Louisiana corporation, filed suit against Jackel International Limited (a corporation established under the laws of England and Wales, having its principal place of business in England) and others, relating to a distribution agreement for child and baby care items. Jackel would be the exclusive distributor of certain LNC products. LNC contended Jackel agreed bot to copy any of LNC's products, their design, prototypes, packaging, methods, or any other proprietary information without LNC's written permission. However, LNC alleged that, on or about October 2009, it learned that Jackel had been selling child and baby products not covered under the terms of the distribution agreement with LNC, but which closely resembled LNC products. Furthermore, in April of 2010, LNC learned that Jackel began to commercialize additional child and baby products, which allegedly incorporated LNC’s products, design, and/or packaging in violation of the contract between the parties. This case presented an issue of first impression for the Louisiana Supreme Court regarding whether La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(g) authorized an award of attorney fees to a party in a contempt proceeding, who had been found not guilty of contempt of court, or whether an award of attorney fees was only authorized in favor of a party who successfully prosecuted a contempt action. The district court awarded, and the appellate court affirmed, attorney fees to Jackel, who was found not to be in contempt, as the “prevailing party.” Having determined that La. R.S. 13:4611(1)(g) only authorized courts to award attorney fees to a party who successfully prosecuted a rule for contempt of court, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in awarding attorney fees in favor of Jackel, and reversed the appellate and district courts holding otherwise. Insofar as the judgment awarded attorney fees, that portion was vacated. View "Luv N' Care, Ltd. v. Jackel International Limited" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the lower courts correctly ruled an online marketplace was obligated as a "dealer" under La. R.S. 47:301(4)(l) and/or by contract to collect sales tax on the property sold by third party retailers through the marketplace’s website. Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC (“Wal-Mart.com”) operated an online marketplace at which website visitors could buy products from Wal-Mart.com or third party retailers. From 2009 through 2015, Wal-Mart.com reported its online sales in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana of its products and remitted the required sales tax to the Louisiana Department of Revenue and ex-officio tax collector, then Sheriff Newell Normand (Tax Collector). The reported sales amount did not include proceeds from online sales made by third party retailers through Wal-Mart.com’s marketplace. Following an attempted audit for this period, Tax Collector filed a “Rule for Taxes” alleging Wal-Mart.com “engaged in the business of selling, and sold tangible personal property at retail as a dealer in the Parish of Jefferson,” but had “failed to collect, and remit . . . local sales taxes from its customers for transactions subject to Jefferson Parish sales taxation.” In addition, Tax Collector alleged that an audit of Wal-Mart.com’s sales transactions was attempted, but Wal-Mart.com “refused to provide [Tax Collector] with complete information and records” of Jefferson Parish sales transactions, particularly, those conducted on behalf of third party retailers. In connection with online marketplace sales by third party retailers, Tax Collector sought an estimated $1,896,882.15 in unpaid sales tax, interest, penalties, audit fees, and attorney fees. The Supreme Court determined an online marketplace was not a “dealer” under La. R.S. 47:301(4)(l) for sales made by third party retailers through its website and because the online marketplace did not contractually assume the statutory obligation of the actual dealers (the third party retailers), the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the court of appeal were reversed and vacated. View "Normand v. Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court accepted a certified question of Louisiana law presented by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This case involves a dispute between two creditors, each of which attached the same pig iron owned by the common debtor, America Metals Trading L.L.P. (“AMT”). Daewoo International Corp. (“Daewoo”), a South Korean trading company, entered into a series of contracts with AMT in May 2012 for the purchase of pig iron, to be delivered in New Orleans. The sale contracts contained arbitration clauses. Although Daewoo made payments under the contracts, AMT never shipped the pig iron. Daewoo sued AMT in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking an order compelling AMT to arbitrate the dispute pursuant to the terms of the contract and also seeking a writ of attachment of AMT’s pig iron on board the M/V Clipper Kasashio under the Louisiana non-resident attachment statute, Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 3542. The writ was granted and served by the U.S. Marshals Service on December 22, 2012. Noting that La. C.C.P. art. 3542, Louisiana’s non-resident attachment statute, allows a party to obtain a writ of attachment in "any action for a money judgment, whether against a resident or a nonresident, regardless of the nature, character, or origin of the claim, whether it is for a certain or uncertain amount, and whether it is liquidated or unliquidated," the federal court stated the issue as "whether Daewoo’s suit to compel arbitration and obtain provisional relief is an 'action for a money judgment' to which Louisiana’s non-resident attachment statute applies." The Louisiana Supreme Court responded: "Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 3542 allows for attachment in aid of arbitration if the origin of the underlying arbitration claim is one pursuing money damages and the arbitral party has satisfied the statutory requirements necessary to obtain a writ of attachment." View "Stemcor USA Inc. v. CIA Siderurgica Do Para Cosipar" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a City of New Orleans ordinance levying a gallonage tax based on volume upon dealers who handle high alcoholic content beverages was a valid exercise of its authority to levy and collect occupational license taxes within the meaning of La. Const. Art. VI, sec. 28. The trial court declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The Supreme Court found the portion of the ordinance at issue was not an unconstitutional exercise of the City’s taxing authority. Thus, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Beer Industry League of Louisiana v. City of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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This action for nullity was brought by a judgment creditor against a judgment debtor and his wife. At issue was whether the couple’s failure to file a codally-required joint petition to commence the termination of their community property regime resulted in an absolute nullity or a relative nullity. Because the failure to file a joint petition results in a relative nullity as defined by La. C.C. art. 2031, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment holding to the contrary. Judgment was rendered in favor of the couple. View "Radcliffe 10, LLC v. Burger" on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff, James Duhon, was such a customer, and was injured in the course of participating in the park’s activities. After plaintiff filed suit seeking damages, Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception, but the court of appeal reversed, finding the arbitration provision should be enforced. After review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. View "Duhon v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff Theresa Alicea executed the Agreement prior to her husband, Roger Alicea, taking their minor sons to Sky Zone. The Aliceas’ son, Logan, was injured while jumping on a trampoline. The Aliceas filed suit against Sky Zone, individually and on behalf of Logan. Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception and the court of appeal denied Sky Zone’s writ application. After review, the Supreme Court held the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the rulings of the lower courts. View "Alicea v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law

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This matter involved the interpretation and application of the Uniform Local Sales Tax Code (ULSTC). Yesterdays of Lake Charles, Inc. (Yesterdays) and Cowboy’s Nightlife, Inc. (Cowboy’s) were cash-based bars or nightclubs located adjacent to each other in Calcasieu Parish. The clubs were audited in 2009, by the Calcasieu Parish School System Sales and Use Tax Department ("Collector) for years 2005 through 2008, on the basis that the clubs had violated their duties as tax collection agents for the Calcasieu Parish School System. The trial court found ambiguity in the language of the ULSTC requiring the plaintiff nightclubs to “keep and preserve suitable records” of all sales and expenditures. The trial court then found the tax collector had failed to show that the records actually kept by the clubs, in this case, bank statements and deposit slips, were not "suitable records" within the meaning of the ULSTC. The trial court further found the tax collector’s assessment was arbitrary and that the tax collector had failed to establish that its methodology for auditing the taxpayer was proper. Accordingly, the trial court: (1) ordered the tax collector to refund amounts paid under protest by the clubs; (2) determined that prescription had run on the sales taxes for the years 2005 and 2006 for one of the clubs, aside from those taxes admittedly withheld by the clubs; and (3) denied the tax collector’s motion for new trial and awarded attorney fees to the clubs. After its review, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment ordering a refund of the taxes and interest paid under protest by the clubs. Furthermore, the Court reversed the trial court’s award of attorney fees. In all other respects, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed, and the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Yesterdays of Lake Charles, Inc. v. Calcasieu Parish Sales & Use Tax Dept." on Justia Law

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Nelson Industrial Steam Company (“NISCO”) was in the business of generating electric power in Lake Charles. In order to comply with state and federal environmental regulations, NISCO introduces limestone into its power generation process; the limestone acts as a “scrubbing agent.” The limestone chemically reacts with sulfur to make ash, which NISCO then sells to LA Ash, for a profit of roughly $6.8 million annually. LA Ash sells the ash to its customers for varying commercial purposes, including roads, construction projects, environmental remediation, etc. NISCO appealed when taxes were collected on its purchase of limestone over four tax periods. NISCO claimed its purchase of limestone was subject to the “further processing exclusion” of La. R.S. 47:301(10)(c)(i)(aa), which narrowed the scope of taxable sales. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted NISCO’s writ application to determine the taxability of the limestone. The trial court ruled in the Tax Collectors' favor. After its review, the Supreme Court found that NISCO’s by-product of ash was the appropriate end product to analyze for purposes of determining the “further processing exclusion’s” applicability to the purchase of limestone. Moreover, under a proper “purpose” test, the third prong of the three-part inquiry enunciated in "International Paper v. Bridges," (972 So.2d 1121(2008)) was satisfied, "as evidenced by NISCO’s choice of manufacturing process and technology, its contractual language utilized in its purchasing of the limestone, and its subsequent marketing and sale of the ash." Therefore the Court reversed the trial court and ruled in favor of NISCO. View "Bridges v. Nelson Industrial Steam Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the defendants’ writ application in this case to determine whether the lower courts erred by imposing personal liability on the sole member and manager of a limited liability company (“L.L.C.”). The issue presented centered on the scope of the narrow professional duty exception to the general rule of limited liability for members, managers, employees, and agents of an L.L.C. set forth in La. Rev. Stat. 12:1320. After review, the Court found the plaintiff failed to show the defendant member of the L.L.C. owed her a professional duty outside the confines of the contract. Furthermore, the Court found the defendant was not personally liable to the plaintiff for his negligent or wrongful acts. The Court reversed the rulings of the lower courts. View "Nunez v. Pinnacle Homes, LLC" on Justia Law