Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc.
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, the State of Illinois, represented by the Attorney General, alleged that Elite Staffing, Inc., Metro Staff, Inc., and Midway Staffing, Inc. (collectively, the staffing agencies) violated the Illinois Antitrust Act. The agencies, which supplied temporary workers to a company called Colony Display, were claimed to have agreed to fix wages for their employees at below-market rates and agreed not to hire each other's employees. The staffing agencies argued that the Act did not apply to the charged conduct, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for interlocutory review.The Supreme Court held that the Illinois Antitrust Act does not exempt agreements between competitors to hold down wages and to limit employment opportunities for their employees from antitrust scrutiny. For the purposes of the Act, the court clarified that "service" does not exclude all agreements concerning labor services. It particularly noted that multiemployer agreements concerning wages they will pay their employees and whether they will hire each other's employees may violate the Act unless the agreement arises as part of the bargaining process and the affected employees, through their collective bargaining representatives, have sought to bargain with the multiemployer unit.The court vacated the appellate court’s answer to a question it had formulated and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc." on Justia Law
Cothron v. White Castle System, Inc.
An employee alleged that her employer, White Castle, introduced a system that required its employees to scan their fingerprints to access their pay stubs and computers. A third-party vendor then verified each scan and authorized the employee’s access. In a suit under the Biometric Information Privacy Act, 740 ILCS 14/15(b), (d), White Castle argued that the action was untimely because her claim accrued in 2008 when White Castle first obtained her biometric data after the Act’s effective date.The Seventh Circuit certified the question to the Illinois Supreme Court, which held that section 15(b) and 15(d) claims accrue each time a private entity scans a person’s biometric identifier and each time a private entity transmits such a scan to a third party, respectively, rather than only upon the first scan and first transmission. The court “respectfully suggested” that the legislature address the policy concerns inherent in the possibility of awards of substantial damages. View "Cothron v. White Castle System, Inc." on Justia Law
Ivey v. Transunion Rental Screening Solutions Inc.
TURSS provided background and credit screening services to property management professionals and landlords through its online platforms and undertook to build an online platform to sell customizable electronic lease forms. TURSS sent Helix a letter of intent that the platform would be completed in 2009. The companies entered into a five-year marketing agreement that required TURSS to provide the platform and Helix to provide the product. TURSS would receive 35% of the revenue generated from sales and Helix would receive 65%. The agreement was not exclusive. Helix provided electronic forms and supporting materials to TURSS but the platform was still not completed in 2015.Helix sued TURSS for“willful and intentional” breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel. The court ultimately granted TURSS summary judgment. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding that Helix failed to present proof of its damages with reasonable certainty. Helix did not present evidence of revenues of a similar product or a similar business in a similar market. Where a plaintiff seeks lost profits for a new company, "without a track record of profit, attempting to sell a new and untested product to a new market,” the specter of impermissible speculation arises. View "Ivey v. Transunion Rental Screening Solutions Inc." on Justia Law
Walworth Investments-LG, LLC v. Mu Sigma, Inc.
Walworth, a former stockholder, sued Mu Sigma, a privately held data analytics company, and Rajaram, the company’s founder, CEO, and board chairman, alleging that after reaping the benefits of Walworth’s $1.5 million investment and reputational capital, the defendants embarked on a fraudulent scheme to oust Walworth of its substantial ownership interest in the company.The Cook County circuit court dismissed the complaint, citing the stock repurchase agreement (SRA), which included anti-reliance and general release provisions. The appellate court reversed, holding that the anti-reliance language was ambiguous. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, stating that “the broad and comprehensive release agreed to by [Walworth], a sophisticated party represented by experienced counsel, unambiguously encompasses” the unjust enrichment and breach of contract claims. The bargained-for anti-reliance provisions reflected the understanding that there may be undisclosed information but that Walworth was satisfied by the information provided. Walworth had direct access to Rajaram to negotiate the arm’s-length transaction at issue and Rajaram was not acting as a fiduciary for Walworth. A corporation owes no fiduciary duty to its shareholder and Delaware law does not impose “an affirmative fiduciary duty of disclosure for individual transactions.” View "Walworth Investments-LG, LLC v. Mu Sigma, Inc." on Justia Law
McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC
McDonald filed a putative class action, alleging that her former employer, Bronzeville, collected, used, and stored sensitive biometric data from employees in a fingerprint timekeeping system, violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act,740 ILCS 14/1. McDonald alleged that she was never provided with nor signed a release and had never been informed of the purposes or length of time for which her biometric information was stored. Bronzeville argued that the claims were barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1, the exclusive remedy for accidental injuries transpiring in the workplace, and that an employee has no common-law or statutory right to recover civil damages from an employer for injuries incurred in the course of her employment.The circuit court rejected Bronzeville’s argument, reasoning that privacy rights are neither a psychological nor physical injury and not compensable under the Compensation Act. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court concluded that an employee's claim against an employer for liquidated damages under the Privacy Act, available without further compensable actual damages being alleged or sustained and intended to have a preventative and deterrent effect, is not the type of injury that categorically fits within the purview of the Compensation Act, a remedial statute designed to provide financial protection for workers that have sustained an actual injury. View "McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC" on Justia Law
Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta
Indeck develops, owns, and operates conventional and alternative fuel power plants. DePodesta, Indeck's vice president of business development, had overall responsibility for Indeck’s electrical generation project development efforts. Dahlstrom was director of business development. DePodesta and Dahlstrom had signed confidentiality agreements.In 2010, Dahlstrom founded HEV, a consulting firm that develops electrical power generation projects. DePodesta later became a member of HEV. In 2013, DePodesta, Dahlstrom, and HEV formed an LLC to develop natural-gas-fired, simple cycle power plants in Texas. The two subsequently copied and removed from Indeck’s premises thousands of documents and files. DePodesta resigned from Indeck on November 1, 2013, and Dahlstrom on November 4. They did not tell anyone at Indeck that they intended to pursue an opportunity with a new LLC. In 2014, Indeck filed suit, alleging breach of the confidentiality agreements and fiduciary duties,” seeking injunctive relief and disgorgement.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Indeck’s confidentiality agreement was unenforceable as overbroad and Indeck failed to prove it had sustained injury based on any breach. Any profits from breaches of fiduciary duty after the defendants were speculative; there was no identifiable fund traceable to those breaches, so a constructive trust was not available. However, defendants breached their fiduciary duties during their employment and were required to disgorge their salaries. Indeck failed to prove the injury necessary for its claim of usurpation of a corporate opportunity. View "Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta" on Justia Law
West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Krishna Schaumburg Tan, Inc.
Sekura purchased a membership from Krishna that gave her access to L.A. Tan’s salons. Her membership required Sekura to provide Krishna with her fingerprints. Sekura filed a class-action lawsuit against Krishna, alleging that Krishna violated the Biometric Information Privacy Act: because it “systematically and automatically collected, used, stored, and disclosed their [customers’] biometric identifiers or biometric information without first obtaining the written release required by 740 ILCS 14/15(b)(3) … systematically disclosed ... biometric identifiers and biometric information to SunLync, an out-of-state … vendor and … does not provide a publicly available retention schedule or guidelines for permanently destroying its customers’ biometric identifiers and biometric information as specified by the [Act].” The complaint also alleged negligence and unjust enrichment. Krishna tendered Sekura’s lawsuit to West Bend, its insurer.West Bend sought a declaratory judgment that it did not owe a duty to defend Krishna against Sekura’s lawsuit. The trial court entered a judgment for Krishna. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed after construing the policy terms “personal injury or advertising injury,” “publication” of material, and violation of Sekura’s “right of privacy” to conclude that the allegations in Sekura’s complaint fall within or potentially within West Bend’s policies’ coverage for personal injury or advertising injury. A “violation of statutes” exclusion in the policies does not apply to the Act. View "West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Krishna Schaumburg Tan, Inc." on Justia Law
Leibowitz v. Family Vision Care, LLC
Cahill was the office administrator for the Family Vision optometry practice and handled insurance billings. She left her employment and filed for bankruptcy protection. About 90% of Family’s revenue came from claims submitted to VSP, which covers claims from optometrists only if they have “majority ownership and complete control” of their medical practices. VSP disburses payments after the provider signs an agreement certifying itself as “fully controlled and majority-owned” by an optometrist. At the time Cahill was submitting Family’s claims, the practice was actually owned by a practice management company with more than 150 surgery centers and other medical practices.About a year after Cahill left Family, the trustee of Cahill’s bankruptcy estate sued under the Insurance Claims Fraud Prevention Act, 740 ILCS 92/1, which added civil penalties to existing criminal remedies for fraud against private insurance companies and allows a claim to be raised on the state’s behalf by a private person (relator), in a qui tam action. The relator becomes entitled to remuneration if the lawsuit succeeds. A relator must be an “interested person” but the Act does not define that term.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the reinstatement of the case. A former employee-whistleblower with personal, nonpublic information of possible wrongdoing qualifies as an “interested person” under the Act and need not allege a personal claim, status, or right related to the proceeding. The state need not suffer money damages to partially assign its claim to a relator. The Act is intended to remedy fraud against private insurers, where the only injury to the state is to its sovereignty, based on a violation of criminal law. View "Leibowitz v. Family Vision Care, LLC" on Justia Law
Department of Human Rights v. Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC
In 2014, a $30,880 judgment covering backpay and pre-judgment interest was entered against Oakridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC, for its age and disability discrimination against a former employee, in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101. Oakridge Rehab had already gone out of business and transferred the assets and operation of its nursing home facility to Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC in 2012. Unable to enforce the judgment against Oakridge Rehab, the state instituted proceedings to enforce the judgment against Oakridge Healthcare.The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oakridge Healthcare, declining to adopt the federal successor liability doctrine in cases arising under the Human Rights Act. The court noted four limited exceptions to the general rule of nonliability for corporate successors and declined to apply the fraudulent purpose exception, which exists “where the transaction is for the fraudulent purpose of escaping liability for the seller’s obligations.” The court stated that it is within the legislature’s power to abrogate the common-law rule of successor nonliability or otherwise alter its standards through appropriately targeted legislation for employment discrimination cases. View "Department of Human Rights v. Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC" on Justia Law
Whitaker v. Wedbush Securities, Inc.
In 1987, Whitaker opened commodity futures trading accounts that eventually were assigned to Wedbush. Whitaker did not enter into a new customer or security agreement with Wedbush. Wedbush held Whitaker’s funds in customer segregated accounts at BMO Harris, which provided an online portal for Wedbush to process its customers' wire transfers. In December 2014, Wedbush received emailed wire transfer requests purporting to be from Whitaker but actually sent by a hacker. Wedbush completed transfers to a bank in Poland totaling $374,960. Each time, Wedbush sent an acknowledgment to Whitaker’s e-mail account; the hacker apparently intercepted all email communications. Whitaker contacted Wedbush after receiving an account statement containing an incorrect balance. After Wedbush refused Whitaker’s demand for the return of the transferred funds, Whitaker filed suit seeking a refund under the UCC (810 ILCS 5/4A-101). The circuit court rejected the UCC counts, stating that Wedbush had not operated as a “bank” under the UCC definition. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, rejecting an argument that an entity may not qualify as a bank if it does not offer checking services. Courts construe the term “bank” in article 4A liberally to promote the purposes and policies of the UCC. The term “includes some institutions that are not commercial banks” and that “[t]he definition reflects the fact that many financial institutions now perform functions previously restricted to commercial banks, including acting on behalf of customers in funds transfers.” View "Whitaker v. Wedbush Securities, Inc." on Justia Law