Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The case revolves around W.P. Productions, Inc. (WPP), a company owned by Sydney Silverman, and Sam's West, Inc. WPP, which sold kitchen products under the Wolfgang Puck brand to Sam's Club, owed significant debt to Sam's West. Despite this, WPP initiated a tort lawsuit against Tramontina U.S.A., Inc. and Sam's West. After a final judgment was entered against WPP, Sam's West filed a supplemental lawsuit to pierce WPP's corporate veil and hold Silverman personally liable for WPP's unpaid judgments. Silverman, who used a shared bank account for his personal and WPP's corporate funds, allegedly spent over $3 million from the shared account on personal expenses and transfers to himself and his relatives.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment in favor of Sam's West, piercing the corporate veil and holding Silverman personally liable for the judgments against WPP. The court adopted a Report and Recommendation (R&R) that determined Silverman was the alter ego of WPP, but did not establish the remaining elements of improper conduct or causing an injury. Both parties then moved for summary judgment regarding these elements. The court adopted a second R&R stating that the undisputed facts showed Sam's West was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its veil piercing claim.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Silverman appealed the district court's decision, alleging that the court improperly pierced the corporate veil on summary judgment. After reviewing the case, the appellate court affirmed the district court's decision. The court found no genuine dispute of material fact regarding the three elements for piercing the corporate veil in Florida: Silverman was the alter ego of WPP; Silverman used WPP for the improper purpose of evading Florida's Rule of Priorities; and this improper use of WPP's corporate form caused injury to Sam's West. Therefore, the court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Sam's West and pierced the corporate veil. View "Sam's West, Inc. v. Silverman" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. and Oxford Mall, LLC. Oxford Mall purchased a shopping center in a 2017 foreclosure sale and began a significant redevelopment plan. J.C. Penney, a tenant at the mall since 1968, had a lease that included the right to approve certain changes to the mall’s site plan. When J.C. Penney sought to exercise one of its remaining contractual options, Oxford denied the request, claiming that J.C. Penney was out of extension options. This led to a lawsuit filed by J.C. Penney in 2019, invoking the district court’s diversity jurisdiction.The case proceeded for two years under the assumption that diversity jurisdiction existed. However, in 2020, Oxford discovered that it was a citizen of Delaware, the same as J.C. Penney, which destroyed the court’s diversity jurisdiction. Despite this, Oxford continued to litigate in federal court and did not inform the court of the lack of jurisdiction until April 2021, after several unfavorable rulings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to impose sanctions on Oxford Mall, LLC for its bad faith conduct. The court found that Oxford had actual knowledge that it was a citizen of Delaware, which destroyed the court’s diversity jurisdiction, and that Oxford's delay in disclosing the lack of diversity jurisdiction was strategic. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of fees owed to J.C. Penney and in refusing to consider an irrelevant and untimely affidavit from Oxford's attorney. View "J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. v. Oxford Mall, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a challenge to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) denial of a whistleblower award. The petitioner, John Meisel, reported his suspicions about his former tenant's involvement in a Ponzi scheme, which he read about in a newspaper, to the SEC. After the SEC's successful enforcement action against the scheme's perpetrators, Meisel applied for a whistleblower award. The SEC denied his application, reasoning that Meisel's information did not contribute to the enforcement action. Furthermore, his assistance to a court-appointed receiver, who was tasked with recovering funds related to the scheme, did not qualify him for an award as the receiver was not a representative of the Commission. Meisel appealed the denial, claiming it was arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied Meisel’s petition for review. The court held that the SEC's denial of the whistleblower award was neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor was it unsupported by substantial evidence. The court found that the SEC had not used Meisel’s information in its enforcement action, and therefore, his information did not lead to its success. The court also held that Meisel's assistance to the receiver did not qualify him for an award because the receiver was an independent court officer, not a representative of the SEC. Lastly, the court determined that Meisel could not qualify for an award in any related actions because he did not qualify for an award in the covered action. View "Meisel v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The case in question involves a receiver, Burton Wiand, appointed after the collapse of a $78 million Ponzi scheme operated by Oasis, who sued ATC Brokers Ltd. (where Oasis held accounts), David Manoukian (owner of ATC Brokers), and Spotex LLC (which provided software to Oasis). Wiand alleged common-law tort claims against the defendants and fraudulent-transfer claims against ATC Brokers only. The district court dismissed Wiand’s complaint with prejudice, ruling that Wiand lacked standing to sue ATC Brokers and Manoukian and that Spotex was immune under the Communications Decency Act.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that the district court erred in dismissing the fraudulent-transfer claims for lack of standing. The court explained that a receiver for a Ponzi estate has standing to maintain fraudulent-transfer claims on behalf of the estate. However, the court agreed with the district court that Wiand lacked standing to maintain the tort claims, as the Oasis corporate entities were not separate and distinct from the Ponzi scheme, and Wiand couldn't allege an injury to sustain his tort claims.As a result, the court reversed the dismissal of the fraudulent-transfer claims and remanded for further proceedings, and vacated the dismissal with prejudice of the tort claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. View "Wiand v. ATC Brokers Ltd." on Justia Law

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The case involves Purpose Built Families Foundation, a Florida nonprofit that received federal grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve veterans and their families. In 2022, the Department notified the Foundation that activities and payments under five grants would be terminated or withheld due to "major fiscal mismanagement activities". The Foundation sued the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under the Administrative Procedure Act and received a temporary restraining order. Subsequently, the Department withdrew the challenged notices and the Secretary moved to dismiss the action as moot. The district court granted the motion.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court. The court held that the case was moot, as the Department's withdrawal of the notices meant the Foundation's claims could not provide meaningful relief. It also ruled that neither the voluntary-cessation nor the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exceptions to mootness applied. The court stated that the Department's subsequent actions, including a more robust process and new termination notices, were materially different from the original notices. Therefore, a lawsuit challenging the new termination notices would involve materially different allegations and answers. The court concluded that the Foundation would have ample opportunity for judicial review of the legality of the new terminations, once the administrative process was completed. View "Purpose Built Families Foundation, Inc. v. USA" on Justia Law

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The case in question concerns the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's decision on whether Ibrahim Almagarby and his company, Microcap Equity Group, LLC, violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by buying and selling securities without registering as a "dealer". Almagarby was a so-called “toxic” lender who bought the convertible debt of penny-stock companies, converted the debt into common stock at a discount, and then sold the stock in high volumes. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil action against Almagarby, alleging that his conduct constituted dealing, which required registration. The district court ruled in favor of the SEC, ordered Almagarby to disgorge all profits, and permanently enjoined him from future securities law violations and participation in penny-stock offerings.On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that Almagarby was acting as an unregistered “dealer” in violation of the Exchange Act, but found that the district court abused its discretion by imposing a penny-stock ban. The court determined that Almagarby’s high volume of transactions, quick turnaround of sales, and the fact that his entire business relied on flipping penny stocks qualified him as a dealer under the Exchange Act. However, the court ruled that the district court overstepped in enjoining Almagarby from future participation in penny-stock offerings as his actions were not egregious enough to warrant such a bar. The court also rejected Almagarby's claim that the SEC's action violated his due process rights, noting that the Commission did not rely on a novel enforcement theory that contradicted longstanding agency guidance. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part, upholding the judgment against Almagarby but striking down the penny-stock ban. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Almagarby" on Justia Law

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In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Court reviewed a case involving the estates of two patients who passed away after undergoing liposuction procedures at CJL Healthcare, LLC in Georgia. After the patients' deaths, their estates filed lawsuits against the clinic and its doctor. The clinic's insurer, Prime Insurance Co., defended the clinic under a reservation of rights but ultimately withdrew its defense after the costs of defending the lawsuits exhausted the insurance coverage.The estates of the patients and the clinic then filed a lawsuit against the insurers, Prime Insurance Co., Prime Holdings Insurance Services, and Evolution Insurance Brokers, claiming they had breached their duties, contract, and acted negligently. They also claimed the insurers had unlawfully sold surplus lines insurance. The district court dismissed the case, and the plaintiffs appealed.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The Court held that the policy unambiguously provided a $50,000 limit for a single professional liability claim and a $100,000 aggregate limit for all claims. The Court further held that the insurers' duty to defend the clinic ended when the policy limits were exhausted by payment of damages and claim expenses. The Court also affirmed the district court's finding that the Georgia Surplus Lines Insurance Act did not provide a private cause of action for the unauthorized sale of surplus lines insurance. View "Jumlist v. Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia regarding a dispute over the enforceability of a restrictive covenant in Georgia. The plaintiff, Charles Baldwin, had worked for various franchisees of Express Oil Change, LLC, and was asked to sign a restrictive covenant as a condition of receiving a payment after the franchisees' stores were sold to Express. The covenant restricted Baldwin from engaging in certain competitive business activities for a specified duration and within a specified geographic area. After leaving Express, Baldwin sued, seeking a declaration that the covenant was unenforceable under the Georgia Restrictive Covenants Act (GRCA). The district court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of the covenant, finding it unreasonable in terms of its geographic scope and duration. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit found that the district court correctly concluded that the covenant's geographic scope was unreasonable under the GRCA, but that it applied the wrong presumption in concluding that the covenant's duration was unreasonable. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, dismissed the appeal in part, and remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of its preliminary injunction under the proper presumptions. View "Baldwin v. Express Oil Change, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, a group of Florida restaurants brought a lawsuit against Sysco Jacksonville, Inc., a food distribution company. The restaurants, which include A1A Burrito Works, Inc., A1A Burrito Works Taco Shop 2, Inc., and Juniper Beach Enterprises, Inc., alleged that Sysco violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) and breached their contracts when Sysco regularly delivered underweight boxes of poultry. The district court dismissed the restaurants' claims, ruling that the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) preempted their state law claims because their claims sought to impose on Sysco labeling requirements that are "in addition to, or different than" the requirements prescribed by federal law.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court agreed with the district court that the restaurants failed to show that their FDUTPA claim was not preempted by the PPIA. However, the court disagreed with the district court's dismissal of the restaurants' breach of contract claim. The court found that this claim, which argued that the restaurants did not receive the amount of poultry they paid for in accordance with their contracts with Sysco, was not preempted because it merely sought to enforce the parties' private agreements regarding the cost and weight of poultry packages and did not amount to a state imposing a labeling requirement inconsistent with federal regulations. View "A1A Burrito Works, Inc., et al v. Sysco Jacksonville, Inc." on Justia Law

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TASER International, Inc., obtained an injunction against “Phazzer [Electronics] and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys; and any other persons who are in active concert or participation with Phazzer Electronics or its officers, agents, servants, employees, or attorneys” (the “2017 injunction”). The injunction prohibited Phazzer Electronics from distributing or causing to be distributed certain stun guns and accompanying cartridges that infringed on TASER’s intellectual property. At the time of the TASER-Phazzer Electronics litigation, Steven Abboud controlled Phazzer Electronics, and Phazzer Electronics employed, among others, Defendant. In 2018, after the district court found Abboud in contempt for violating the 2017 injunction, Abboud and Defendant went to work for other entities with “Phazzer” in their names. Based on that activity, the district court found Defendant (and others) in contempt of the 2017 injunction. At issue on appeal is whether the 2017 injunction extended broadly enough to bind Defendant and prohibit her conduct under the theories of liability that the government has pressed and the district court decided   The Eleventh Circuit vacated Defendant’s conviction. The court concluded that the record cannot sustain Defendant’s conviction.  The court explained that the district court did not make factual findings about whether Defendant was a key employee. Nor did it determine whether she so controlled Phazzer Electronics and the litigation that resulted in the 2017 injunction that it would be fair to say she had her day in court on that injunction. View "USA v. Diana Robinson" on Justia Law