Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Doug Miller and his son signed a broad noncompetition agreement when Doug sold his fuel-additives business, E.T., in 2011. Doug sold his other company, Petroleum Solutions, to Kuhns about a year later. E.T.’s new owners sued the Millers for breaching the noncompete by providing assistance to Kuhns as he learned the Petroleum Solutions business. The Millers claimed the noncompete was overbroad and unenforceable and that their assistance to Kuhns came at a time when Petroleum Solutions was E.T.’s distributor, not its competitor. When E.T. severed its relationship with Petroleum Solutions in 2012, Doug told Kuhns that the noncompetition agreement prevented further help and ceased assisting him. On summary judgment, the district judge held that the noncompetition agreement was enforceable but the Millers did not breach it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the contract was not overbroad, but that the Millers did not breach it. A company’s distributor is not its competitor, so the Millers’ assistance to Kuhns in 2012 was "fair game." The contract, read reasonably, did not require Doug to break his preexisting lease with Kuhns. View "E.T. Products, LLC v. D.E. Miller Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rooftops sells tickets to view Cubs games and other events at Wrigley Field from the roofs of buildings it controls. Chicago has an ordinance allowing the rooftop businesses. Before the 2002 season, the Cubs installed a windscreen above the outfield bleachers, obstructing the views from rooftop businesses and sued Rooftops, claiming misappropriation of Cubs’ property by charging fees to watch games.The parties settled by entering into the License Agreement running through 2023. Rooftops agreed to pay the Cubs 17% of their gross revenues in exchange for views into Wrigley Field. The Agreement contemplated Wrigley Field's expansion. In 2013, the Cubs released a mock‐up of its proposed renovation, showing that rooftop businesses would be largely blocked by the construction. The city approved the plan over objections. Rooftops claimed that Cubs’ representatives used the threat of blocking views and other “strong-arm tactics” as leverage to force a sale, and sued, alleging: attempted monopolization; false and misleading commercial representations, defamation, false light, and breach of the non‐disparagement provision; and breach of contract. The court denied Rooftops’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed its dismissal of monopolization claims because Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption applies; Rooftops failed to establish a plausible relevant market; and the Cubs cannot be limited by antitrust law from distributing their own product. The contract's plain language did not limit expansions to Wrigley Field's seating capacity. View "Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Mohr and Volvo entered into a heavy truck dealership agreement. In 2012, Volvo sought a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to terminate Mohr’s dealership because Mohr had misrepresented that it would build a new long‐term facility for the dealership. Mohr complained that Volvo had violated Indiana’s Franchise Disclosure and Deceptive Franchise Practices Acts by promising to award Mohr a Mack Truck dealership franchise, which would have justified Mohr’s investment in the new facility. Volvo gave the Mack franchise to another company. Mohr also accused Volvo of providing more favorable concessions on truck pricing to other franchise dealerships through its Retail Sales Assistance program. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that the integration clause in the dealer agreement barred the new‐facility claim and the Mack franchise claim. Following a trial on the unfair discrimination claim, a jury awarded Mohr $6.5 million. The Seventh Circuit reversed the award for the unfair discrimination claim and affirmed the summary judgment rulings. The court stated that these were sophisticated parties, bound by the integration clause and that Mohr did not establish unfair discrimination with respect to price concessions. View "Andy Mohr Truck Center, Inc. v. Volvo Trucks North America" on Justia Law

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Wine & Canvas (W&C) hosts “painting nights.” Patrons, following a teacher’s instructions, create a painting while enjoying wine. W&C operated in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Oklahoma City. Muylle signed a license agreement, moved to San Francisco, and opened a W&C operation. W&C’s executives were present and taught the first class, worked with Muylle to approve paintings for use, gave Muylle company email addresses, and advertised the San Francisco operation on the W&C website. Disagreements arose. Muylle gave notice to terminate the agreement, changed the business name to “Art Uncorked,” and ceased using the W&C name and marks. W&C alleged trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1051. Muylle’s counterclaims invoked California franchise law, federal trademark cancellation. and Indiana abuse of process law. Plaintiffs failed to meet discovery deadlines, despite being sanctioned three times. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: dismissal of the California law counterclaims; W&C's summary judgment on Muylle’s trademark cancellation counterclaim; Muylle's summary judgment on trademark dilution, sale of counterfeit items, unfair competition, bad faith, tortious conduct, abuse of process, breach of contract, fraud, and a claim under the Indiana Crime Victims Act; and Muylle's partial summary judgment on trademark infringement. Through November 18, 2011, W&C impliedly consented to Muylle’s using the marks. On claims of trademark infringement and false designation of origin (for any use after November 18, 2011), and Muylle’s abuse of process counterclaim, the court affirmed awards to Muylle of $270,000 on his counterclaim and $175,882.68 in fees. View "Wine & Canvas Development, LLC v. Muylle" on Justia Law

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Emerald had an Illinois gaming license to operate in East Dubuque. Emerald operated profitably in 1993 but then struggled to compete with an Iowa casino. By 1996, Emerald had closed the casino and was lobbying for an act that would allow it to relocate. The Board denied Emerald’s license renewal application. While an appeal was pending, 230 ILCS 10/11.2 was enacted, permitting relocation. In 1998, before the enactment, defendants met with Rosemont’s mayor and representatives of Rosemont corporations about moving to Rosemont. After the enactment, the parties memorialized the terms of Emerald’s relocation. Emerald did not disclose the agreements as required by Illinois Gaming Board rules. By October 1999, Emerald had contracts with construction companies and architecture firms but had not disclosed them. Emerald altered its ownership structure; several new “investors” had connections to Rosemont’s mayor and state representative. stock transfers occurred without required Board approval. In 2001, the Board voted to revoke Emerald’s license. Its 15-month investigation was apparently based on a belief that Emerald had associated with organized crime but the denial notice focused on inadequate disclosures. The Board listed five counts but did not list who was responsible for which violation. Illinois courts affirmed the revocation but held that the Board had not proven an association with organized crime. Emerald was forced into bankruptcy. The trustee sued the defendants, asserting breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The district court dismissed the breach‐of‐fiduciary‐duty claim as time-barred. The Shareholder’s Agreement required that shareholders comply with IGB rules; the court held that each defendant had violated at least one rule, calculated damages by valuing Emerald’s license, and held all but one defendant severally liable for the loss. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the defendants should be held jointly and severally liable, but otherwise affirmed. View "Estate of Pedersen v. Gecker" on Justia Law

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General Motors (GM), represented by the Mayer Brown law firm, entered into secured transactions in which JP Morgan acted as agent for two different groups of lenders. The first loan (structured as a secured lease) was made in 2001 and the second in 2006. In 2008, the 2001 secured lease was paid off, which required the lenders to release their security interests in the collateral securing the transaction. The closing papers for that payoff accidentally also terminated the lenders’ security interests in the collateral securing the 2006 loan. No one noticed—not Mayer Brown and not JP Morgan’s counsel. When GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009, GM and JP Morgan noticed the error. Plaintiffs, members of the consortium of lenders on the 2006 loan, were not informed until years later. Plaintiffs sued GM’s law firm, Mayer Brown. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, holding that Mayer Brown did not owe plaintiffs a duty. The court rejected arguments that JP Morgan was a client of Mayer Brown in unrelated matters and thus not a third‐party non‐client; even if JP Morgan was a third‐party non‐client, Mayer Brown assumed a duty to JP Morgan by drafting the closing documents; and the primary purpose of the GM‐Mayer Brown relationship was to influence JP Morgan. View "Oakland Police & Fire Retirement System v. Mayer Brown, LLP" on Justia Law

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Freight entering the port of Savannah was trucked to Schneider Logistic’s building, unloaded on one side, sorted, and reloaded on the other side of the building onto outgoing trucks; such reloading is called “cross-docking.” Scheider hired Prime to do the cross‐docking work. Prime was usually not paid timely and not paid enough to break even. Prime complained about that and about a lack of communication from Schneider concerning assignments. Schneider’s failed, without explanation, to pay Prime $82,464.71 for services rendered. Prime removed its employees from Schneider’s Savannah building; and filed suit for $289,059.95. Schneider responded that Prime’s repudiation of the contract had caused Schneider damages of $853,401.49. A jury found that Prime had repudiated its contract but that Schneider had no damages. Schneider successfully sought a new trial under FRCP 59, limited to damages, in the “interest of justice.” A second jury awarded Schneider $853,401.49. reduced to $564,341.54. The Seventh Circuit vacated. A rational jury could find that a zero damages award would fairly compensate Schneider. The first jury may have concluded that Schneider had failed to mitigate its damages by paying Prime what it owed, “peanuts” to such a large firm as Schneider.. In the second trial, the judge arbitrarily excluded evidence favorable to Prime. View "Prime Choice Services Inc. v. Schneider Logistics Transloading & Distribution, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lexington Insurance denied a claim by its insured, Double D Warehouse, for coverage of Double D’s liability to customers for contamination of warehoused products. One basis for denial was that Double D failed to document its warehousing transactions with warehouse receipts, storage agreements, or rate quotations, as required by the policies. PQ was a customer of Double D whose products were damaged while warehoused there. PQ settled its case against Double D by stepping into Double D’s shoes to try to collect on the policies. PQ argued that there were pragmatic reasons to excuse strict compliance with the policy’s terms. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lexington. PQ accurately claimed that the documentation Double D actually had (bills of lading and an online tracking system) should serve much the same purpose as the documentation required by the policies (especially warehouse receipts), but commercially sophisticated parties agreed to unambiguous terms and conditions of insurance. Courts hold them to those terms. To do otherwise would disrupt the risk allocations that are part and parcel of any contract, but particularly a commercial liability insurance contract. PQ offered no persuasive reason to depart from the plain language of the policies. View "PQ Corp. v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law