Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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In a dispute between Tara Shaw and Tara Shaw Designs, Ltd. (collectively, "Shaw") and Restoration Hardware ("RH"), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's dismissal of Shaw's claims. Shaw, a furniture designer, had entered into a contract with RH for the sale and licensing of certain furniture designs. However, Shaw alleged that RH breached an oral agreement by using Shaw's artisans to produce items not part of their licensing agreement without seeking Shaw's permission and providing additional compensation.Shaw brought claims of breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and unjust enrichment against RH. However, the district court dismissed these claims and denied Shaw's motions to reconsider and amend the complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed these decisions.Regarding the breach of contract claim, the court stated that the alleged oral agreement was unenforceable because it left key terms for future negotiation, making it an "agreement to agree" which is not enforceable under Louisiana law.The court dismissed Shaw's detrimental reliance claim since Shaw failed to provide any evidence of damages or detriment due to their reliance on RH's alleged promise. The only detriment Shaw suffered was an opportunity to negotiate compensation in the future, which the court deemed insufficient for a detrimental reliance claim.The court also dismissed Shaw's unjust enrichment claim. While Shaw argued that the dismissal of their other claims demonstrated a lack of alternative remedies, the court found that Shaw failed to provide evidence of detriment necessary to support an unjust enrichment claim.Lastly, Shaw's motion to further amend the complaint was denied. The court found that Shaw failed to show good cause for amendment and that proposed amendments were futile. View "Shaw v. Restoration Hardware" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed a case involving the Cenikor Foundation, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation center. The foundation had been sued by a group of its rehabilitation patients for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The patients contended that they were effectively employees of the foundation, as they were required to work as part of their treatment program without receiving monetary compensation. The foundation contested the lawsuit and appealed a district court's decision to certify the case as a collective action under the FLSA.The Court of Appeals found that the district court had applied the incorrect legal standard in determining whether the patients were employees under the FLSA. Specifically, the court should have applied a test to determine who was the primary beneficiary of the work relationship, rather than a test typically used to distinguish employees from independent contractors.The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court to apply this primary beneficiary test and to consider the foundation's defense that any benefits provided to the patients offset any requirement to pay them a wage. The court emphasized that the question of whether the foundation's patients were employees under the FLSA was a threshold issue that needed to be resolved before the case could proceed as a collective action. View "Klick v. Cenikor Foundation" on Justia Law

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In this case, Louisiana Pellets (LAP) built a wood processing facility but encountered financial issues that led to bankruptcy. LAP pursued Chapter 11 bankruptcy and a bankruptcy judge confirmed a Chapter 11 plan along with a liquidating trust agreement. Under the agreement, LAP transferred its remaining assets and causes of actions to the trust. More than a year after the creation of the trust, third parties assigned certain legal claims to the trust that the trustee, Craig Jalbert, pursued in state court. The claims involved misstatements made by Raymond James & Associates in its efforts to raise funds to construct LAP's facility. In response to Jalbert's filing, Raymond James asserted affirmative defenses, citing a pre-bankruptcy indemnity agreement it made with LAP.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that Raymond James could not maintain those defenses against the assigned claims. The court reasoned that the express language of the confirmation plan enjoined Raymond James's defensive maneuver. Also, the post-confirmation trust is not the appropriate entity against whom to invoke LAP's indemnity obligation. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court's ruling. View "Raymond James & Assoc v. Jalbert" on Justia Law

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In this case, Southwest Airlines filed a suit against Liberty Insurance Underwriters for denial of a claim for reimbursement under its cyber risk insurance policy after a massive computer failure. This computer failure resulted in flight delays and cancellations, causing Southwest to incur over $77 million in losses. Southwest claimed these losses under their insurance policy, but Liberty denied the claim, arguing that the costs incurred by Southwest were discretionary and either not covered under the policy or excluded by certain policy clauses.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disagreed with the lower court's decision to grant summary judgment for Liberty. The court concluded that the costs incurred by Southwest due to the system failure were not categorically barred from coverage as a matter of law. The court found that Southwest's five categories of costs satisfied the policy's causation standard and were thus "losses" that it "incurred."The court also concluded that the district court erred in finding that the claimed costs were consequential damages excluded from coverage and that the term "third parties" did not apply to Southwest’s customers and did not preclude costs related to Southwest’s payments to its customers.The court reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Southwest Airlines v. Liberty Insurance" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and vacated parts of a judgment against EOX Holdings, L.L.C., and Andrew Gizienski ("Defendants") in a case initiated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC"). The CFTC had accused the defendants of violating a rule that prevents commodities traders from "taking the other side of orders" without clients' consent. The court ruled that the defendants lacked fair notice of the CFTC's interpretation of this rule. The case revolved around Gizienski's actions while working as a broker for EOX, where he had discretion to make specific trades on behalf of one of his clients, Jason Vaccaro. The CFTC argued that Gizienski's actions violated the rule because he was making decisions to trade opposite the orders of other clients without their knowledge or consent. The court, however, ruled that the CFTC's interpretation of the rule was overly broad, as it did not provide sufficient notice that such conduct would be considered taking the other side of an order. The court reversed the penalty judgment against the defendants, vacated part of the injunction against them, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Commodity Futures v. EOX Holdings" on Justia Law

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In 2020, Illumina, a for-profit corporation that manufactures and sells next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms, which are crucial tools for DNA sequencing, entered into an agreement to acquire Grail, a company it had initially founded and then spun off as a separate entity in 2016. Grail specializes in developing multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, which are designed to identify various types of cancer from a single blood sample. Illumina's acquisition of Grail was seen as a significant step toward bringing Grail’s developed MCED test, Galleri, to market.However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) objected to the acquisition, arguing that it violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition. The FTC contended that because all MCED tests, including those still in development, relied on Illumina’s NGS platforms, the merger would potentially give Illumina the ability and incentive to foreclose Grail’s rivals from the MCED test market.Illumina responded by creating a standardized supply contract, known as the "Open Offer," which guaranteed that it would provide its NGS platforms to all for-profit U.S. oncology customers at the same price and with the same access to services and products as Grail. Despite this, the FTC ordered the merger to be unwound.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the FTC had applied an erroneous legal standard in evaluating the impact of the Open Offer. The court ruled that the FTC should have considered the Open Offer at the liability stage of its analysis, rather than as a remedy following a finding of liability. Furthermore, the court determined that to rebut the FTC's prima facie case, Illumina was not required to show that the Open Offer would completely negate the anticompetitive effects of the merger, but rather that it would mitigate these effects to a degree that the merger was no longer likely to substantially lessen competition.The court concluded that substantial evidence supported the FTC’s conclusions regarding the likely substantial lessening of competition and the lack of cognizable efficiencies to rebut the anticompetitive effects of the merger. However, given its finding that the FTC had applied an incorrect standard in evaluating the Open Offer, the court vacated the FTC’s order and remanded the case for further consideration of the Open Offer's impact under the proper standard. View "Illumina v. FTC" on Justia Law

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A writ of mandamus is reserved for extraordinary circumstances. TikTok, Incorporated, and various related entities contend that the district court’s denial of their motion to transfer to the Northern District of California was so patently erroneous that this rare form of relief is warranted. The district court denied Petitioners’ motion to transfer after finding that five of the eight factors were neutral, and three weighed against transferring to California.The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus, finding that denying Petitioners’ motion to transfer was a clear abuse of discretion. The court explained that in the district court’s view, Petitioners’ large presence in the Western District of Texas raises an “extremely plausible and reasonable inference” that these employees possess some relevant documents. But the district court cannot rely on the mere fact that Petitioners have a general presence in the Western District of Texas because Volkswagen commands courts to assess its eight factors considering the circumstances of the specific case at issue. Further, the court explained that under Volkswagen’s 100-mile threshold, the Northern District of California is a clearly more convenient venue for most relevant witnesses in this case. The district court committed a clear abuse of discretion in concluding otherwise. View "In Re: TikTok, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Armadillo Hotel Group, LLC (“Armadillo”) is a buyer and operator of modular and mobile structures throughout North America. According to Armadillo, Defendants Todd Harris and Jason McDaniel were hired in May 2019 to oversee Armadillo’s construction operations and its hotel, food, and beverage operations, respectively. McDaniel resigned in January 2021, Harris in July 2021. Harris and McDaniel asserted that they entered employment agreements with AHG Management as part of the joint venture, but AHG Management breached these agreements by failing to pay the agreed-upon salary, bonuses, and profit-sharing interests. They asserted claims of fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference, and unjust enrichment. Harris, McDaniel, SDRS, and BMC moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the non-GML defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice.   The Fifth Circuit reversed. The court explained that it could not find sufficient information in the record to decide if Armadillo and AHG Management were in privity with each other. The fact that the same attorneys filed AHG Management’s amended state counterclaim and Armadillo’s federal complaint is insufficient to show privity. Accordingly, the court found that the district court did not have sufficient information or even assertions about the relationship of Armadillo and AHG Management to perform such an assessment. View "Armadillo Hotel v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Kenai Ironclad Corporation (“Kenai” or “Plaintiff”) alleged that CP Marine Services, LLC, breached its contract to repair and convert Kenai’s offshore supply vessel to a salmon fishing tender for use in Alaska. After Kenai expressed dissatisfaction with the work, the relationship deteriorated. Kenai alleged that, after paying its final invoice, it attempted to remove its vessel from CP Marine’s shipyard, but as it did so, CP Marine and codefendant Ten Mile Exchange, LLC (“TME”) (collectively, “Defendants”) rammed, wrongfully seized, detained, and converted Kenai’s vessel for five days before finally releasing it the district court found that CP Marine did not breach its contract with Kenai but did wrongfully seize, detain, and convert the vessel. The district court awarded punitive damages and attorney’s fees for Defendants’ bad faith and reckless behavior in ramming, seizing, and converting the vessel for five days. Defendants appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that Defendants wrongfully seized and converted Kenai’s vessel in bad faith and in a manner egregious enough to warrant an award of punitive damages. The court vacated the district court’s award of damages and remanded on the limited basis of clarifying the court’s award. The court found that Kenai presented sufficient evidence and testimony to support the district court’s finding that Defendants’ conduct was in bad faith, in callous disregard for the safety of the people aboard the vessels, and in reckless disregard of Kenai’s rights. Hence, the district court did not clearly err in finding facts sufficient to support an award of punitive damages. View "Kenai Ironclad v. CP Marine Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are private shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—government-sponsored home mortgage companies. Defendants include the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), the Treasury, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the FHFA in their official capacities. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs had not plausibly alleged that the removal restriction caused them harm and dismissed their claims. It also dismissed their claims—raised for the first time on remand—that the FHFA’s funding mechanism is inconsistent with the Appropriations Clause, concluding that the claims were outside the scope of the Collins remand order in violation of the mandate rule. Plaintiffs raise two issues on appeal. The first is whether the district court erred in dismissing their claims that the unconstitutional removal restriction caused them harm. The second is whether the court erred in dismissing their Appropriations Clause claims.   The Fifth Circuit rejected Plaintiffs’ contentions and affirmed the dismissal of the removal and Appropriations Clause claims. The court explained that the anti-injunction clause applies and prevents courts from taking “any action to restrain or affect the exercise of powers or functions of the [FHFA] as a conservator or a receiver.” Because Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief that would require the FHFA to take specific actions as conservator to restore Plaintiffs to the position they would have been in if not for the unconstitutional removal restriction, they asked the district court to “affect” the “function of the [FHFA] as a conservator[.]” So, Plaintiffs’ APA claims are barred. View "Collins v. Treasury" on Justia Law