Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Pacific Gulf Shipping Co. v. Vigorous Shipping & Trading S.A.
In this admiralty case, Pacific Gulf, in possession of an arbitral award against Adamastos Shipping, tried to collect from Blue Wall and Vigorous Shipping on the grounds that they are either successors to or alter-egos of Adamastos. The district court dismissed the successor-liability claim and granted summary judgment to Blue Wall and Vigorous on the alter-ego claim.After determining that Pacific Gulf has standing, the panel applied federal common law and joined other courts in holding that maritime law requires a transfer of all or substantially all of the predecessor's assets to the alleged successor before successor liability will be imposed on that alleged successor. In this case, the panel concluded that Pacific Gulf has failed to plead that Blue Wall and its subsidiaries "comprise successor corporate business entities of" Adamastos. The panel explained that Pacific Gulf alleged no transfer of any assets (let alone all or substantially all) from Adamastos to Blue Wall or its subsidiaries. Therefore, because Pacific Gulf failed to plead a factual prerequisite to corporate successorship, the district court correctly dismissed the claim based on that theory.The panel also agreed with the district court that Pacific Gulf's discovery revealed nothing to allow a reasonable juror to rule in its favor on the alter-ego theory. Viewing the record as a whole, the panel considered the factors for determining whether a party has pierced the corporate veil and agreed with the district court that Pacific Gulf came away "empty handed" from discovery. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that either Blue Wall or Vigorous was operated as an alter-ego of Adamastos. View "Pacific Gulf Shipping Co. v. Vigorous Shipping & Trading S.A." on Justia Law
Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act, remanding for further proceedings. At issue is whether the First Amendment shields a publisher of supposedly independent product reviews if it has secretly rigged the ratings to favor one company in exchange for compensation. The panel ruled that this speech qualifies as commercial speech only, and that a nonfavored company may potentially sue the publisher for misrepresentation under the Lanham Act.In this case, Ariix alleges that NutriSearch rigged its ratings to favor Usana under a hidden financial arrangement. The panel held that Ariix plausibly alleges that the nutritional supplement guide is commercial speech, is sufficiently disseminated, and contains actionable statements of fact. However, the panel remanded for the district court to consider the "purpose of influencing" element under the Lanham Act. View "Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp." on Justia Law
3500 Sepulveda, LLC v. RREEF America REIT II Corp. BBB
This case arises from the parties' dispute concerning a construction project to expand the Manhattan Village Shopping Center in Manhattan Beach, California. The parties' predecessors executed the Construction, Operation and Reciprocal Easement Agreement (the COREA) in 1980. The parties resolved disputes in a Settlement Agreement in 2008 where, under the terms of the settlement agreement, RREEF agreed not to oppose Hacienda's plan to convert office space into restaurants and Hacienda agreed not to oppose RREEF's expansion project subject to certain limitations in the Agreement. At issue is RREEF's project.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the nuisance claim and reversed the district court as to the remaining claims. In regard to the claim for breach of contract, the panel concluded that RREEF has discretion to pursue the project and alter the site plan, and Hacienda's objections to the city are limited to RREEF's material changes. That RREEF has discretion to revise the site plan does not mean that Hacienda gave up its rights under the COREA, especially considering that the Settlement Agreement, by its own terms, does not amend the COREA. In regard to the claim for interference with easement rights, the panel concluded that the Settlement Agreement does not extinguish plaintiffs' easement rights under the COREA, and the district court erred in holding otherwise. In regard to the claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue as to whether RREEF's construction of the North Deck was contrary to "the contract's purposes and the parties' legitimate expectations." In regard to the claim for interference with business and contractual relations, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have raised triable issues concerning whether defendants' construction interfered with Hacienda's tenant contracts, and whether defendants acted with the knowledge that "interference is certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of [their] action."The panel also reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief. In regard to RREEF's counterclaims, the panel concluded that policy considerations weighed against applying the litigation privilege. Finally, the panel concluded that the attorneys' fee question was moot and vacated the district court's order denying the parties' motions for attorneys' fees. View "3500 Sepulveda, LLC v. RREEF America REIT II Corp. BBB" on Justia Law
InteliClear, LLC v. ETC Global Holdings, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for ETC in an action brought by InteliClear, alleging that ETC misused its securities trading database. InteliClear alleged claims for trade secret misappropriations under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act.The panel held that: (1) there is a triable issue of fact as to whether (a) InteliClear described its alleged trade secrets with sufficient particularity and (b) InteliClear has shown that parts of the InteliClear System are secret; and (2) the district court abused its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) by issuing its summary judgment ruling before discovery occurred. View "InteliClear, LLC v. ETC Global Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law
Oracle America, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
Oracle, owner of the proprietary Solaris software operating system, filed suit alleging that HPE improperly accessed, downloaded, copied, and installed Solaris patches on servers not under an Oracle support contract. Oracle asserted direct copyright infringement claims for HPE's direct support customers, and indirect infringement claims for joint HPE-Terix customers. The district court granted summary judgment for HPE.The Ninth Circuit held that the copyright infringement claim is subject to the Copyright Act's three year statute of limitations, which runs separately for each violation. The panel explained that Oracle's constructive knowledge triggered the statute of limitations and Oracle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the suspected infringement. The panel also held that the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim is barred by California's two year statute of limitations. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's partial summary judgment for HPE on the infringement and intentional interference claims. The panel also affirmed in part summary judgment on the indirect infringement claims for patch installations by Terix; reversed summary judgment on all infringement claims for pre-installation conduct and on the direct infringement claims for unauthorized patch installations by HPE; and addressed all other issues in a concurrently filed memorandum opinion. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law
Judd v. Weinstein
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of actor Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim under California Civil Code section 51.9 against producer Harvey Weinstein. Judd alleged that, in the late 1990s, Weinstein sexually harassed her during a general business meeting and derailed her potential involvement in the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" book trilogy.The panel held that, as alleged, section 51.9 plainly encompasses Judd and Weinstein's relationship, which was "substantially similar" to the "business, service, or professional relationship[s]" enumerated in the statute. The panel explained that the relationship between Judd and Weinstein was characterized by a considerable imbalance of power substantially similar to the imbalances that characterize the enumerated relationships in section 51.9. The panel stated that, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment. Furthermore, given Weinstein's highly influential and "unavoidable" presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate "without tangible hardship" to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles. The panel rejected Weinstein's arguments to the contrary and held that Judd sufficiently alleged a claim under section 51.9. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Judd v. Weinstein" on Justia Law
United States v. Doe Co.
This case arose from a federal grand jury investigation of the acquisition of one company by another company. The grand jury issued two indictments and subpoenas to a third company, Doe Company ("the Company"), and to Pat Roe, a former officer at the acquired company and a current partner at the Company. The Company appealed the district court's denial of the Company's motion to quash and order of compliance by both the Company and by Pat Roe. After the Company declined to produce the documents, the district court held the Company in contempt.The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's enforcement order directed to Roe. The panel clarified under Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918), that in seeking interlocutory review of a court order enforcing a grand jury subpoena, an appellant must assert a claim of evidentiary privilege or some other legal claim specifically protecting against disclosure to the grand jury. Because the Company makes no such claim, the panel held that it did not have jurisdiction under Perlman and dismissed in part.After determining that it had jurisdiction to review the district court's enforcement orders directed to the Company and holding the Company in contempt, the panel held that, taken together, the district court's findings adequately support its determination that it had in personam jurisdiction over the Company. Furthermore, service of process on the Company was proper where it was fair, reasonable, and just to imply the authority of the General Counsel to receive service on behalf of the Company. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part. View "United States v. Doe Co." on Justia Law
Bedrosian v. Commissioner
A challenge to the timeliness of a partnership proceeding must be raised in the partnership proceeding itself and that failure to do so results in a forfeiture of the argument. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal of taxpayers' petition challenging adjustments to a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA) involving taxpayers' partnership. In an earlier appeal, the panel upheld the validity of the partnership proceeding and the adjustments made therein. The panel held that taxpayer's challenges in this case essentially amounted to a collateral attack on the partnership proceeding. In this case, the taxpayers had an opportunity to challenge the FPAA during the partnership proceeding, but elected not to do so. View "Bedrosian v. Commissioner" on Justia Law
Goodman v. Dohmen
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of state law to the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware: In a Delaware limited partnership, does a general partner's request to a limited partner for a one-time capital contribution constitute a request for "limited-partner action" such that the general partner has a duty of disclosure, and, if the general partner fails to disclose material information in connection with the request, may the limited partner prevail on a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim without proving reliance and causation? View "Goodman v. Dohmen" on Justia Law
hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, a data analytics company, prohibiting LinkedIn, a professional networking website, from denying hiQ access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles.The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that hiQ currently has no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its Keeper and Skill Mapper services, and that HiQ therefore has demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The panel also held that the district court's determination that the balance of hardships tips sharply in hiQ's favor was not illogical, implausible, or without support in the record; hiQ raised serious questions regarding the merits of its tortious interference with contract claim and LinkedIn's legitimate business purpose defense; hiQ also raised a serious question regarding whether state law causes of action were preempted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and the district court's conclusion that the public interest favors granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate. View "hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp." on Justia Law