Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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Cope, injured on a Kentucky job site, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The subcontractor who hired him for the project, CMC, is based in Southern Indiana, and had an insurance policy with AFICA. Schultheis Insurance Agency procured the policy for CMC, but failed to inform AFICA that CMC did business in Kentucky. AFICA sought a declaration that its policy does not cover Cope’s claim.The district court granted AFICA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain text of the policy is unambiguous: because CMC failed to notify AFICA until after Cope’s accident that it was working in Kentucky, AFICA is not liable for Cope’s workers’ compensation claim. The policy states : “If you have work on the effective date of this policy in any state [other than Indiana], coverage will not be afforded for that state unless we are notified within thirty days.” View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taizhou, a Chinese manufacturer, entered into a Cooperation Agreement with Z Outdoor, a Wisconsin company owned by Casual Products: Taizhou would manufacture outdoor furniture and other related items for Z Outdoor to sell to customers. Z Outdoor eventually stopped paying Taizhou. The Cornings, on behalf of Z Outdoor, made false statements about future business, forthcoming payments, and causes for the delays. Taizhou continued to fill customer orders without receiving compensation. In 2018, AFG (a Wisconsin LLC also owned by Casual) started submitting purchase orders to Taizhou. AFG never signed the Cooperation Agreement. Taizhou filled the orders and sent AFG invoices. AFG eventually stopped paying Taizhou and made false statements regarding payment delays. The total due from Z Outdoor and AFG accrued to $14 million for purchase orders sent, 2017-2019.The district court entered a default judgment against the corporate defendants on Taizhou's contract claims but ruled against Taizhou on unjust enrichment, fraud, and conversion claims, finding the fraud and conversion claims barred by Wisconsin’s economic loss doctrine and q “mere repackaging of Taizhou’s ‘straightforward breach of contract claim.’” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Any fraud was interwoven with the Cooperation Agreement, so the economic loss doctrine applies. To the extent the damages amounted to lost profits or lost business, those are also economic losses under Wisconsin law. View "Taizhou Yuanda Investment Group Co., Ltd. v. Z Outdoor Living, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that the terms of a settlement resulted in a de facto assignment of a corporation's theoretical legal malpractice claim to Amit Shah by using the corporation as his alter ego, holding that there was no error.In 2013, Shah and another minority shareholder of Duro, Inc. brought this action against Duro and its third shareholder, alleging money laundering and racketeering. In 2015, Plaintiffs added a shareholder derivative claim of legal malpractice, nominally on behalf of Duro, against a law firm and its attorneys (May Oberfell), who had represented Defendants in the case. In 2017, Plaintiffs settled their claims, preserving any claims Duro might have against May Oberfell. Shah subsequently took effective control of Duro and transferred all of Duro's assets except the legal malpractice claim. Thereafter, Shah, through Duro, filed a complaint against May Oberfell. The district court granted summary judgment for May Oberfell, concluding that the legal malpractice claim had undergone a "de facto" assignment, and therefore, the claim was barred under Indiana law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that May Oberfell was entitled to summary judgment. View "Duro, Inc. v. Walton" on Justia Law

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In this putative class action filed shortly after two fatal crashes of new Boeing 737 MAX airliners led to a worldwide grounding of those planes and a halt to production, resulting to a significant drop in the value of Boeing stock, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that there was no error.At issue was The Boeing Company's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and whether Boeing plan fiduciaries' delegation to an independent outside fiduciary the selection and management of investment options for the ESOP protected the company and company insiders from liability for the plan's continued offering of Boeing stock as an independent option for employees before and during the time when the Boeing stock dropped. Plaintiffs argued that Boeing's continuous concealment of material facts relating to the 737 MAX jets caused the price of the stock to be artificially inflated and that Defendants should disclosed the safety issues to the public immediately. The district court dismissed the action. The Seventh District affirmed, holding that the delegation of investment decisions to an independent fiduciary meant that Boeing did not act in an ERISA fiduciary capacity in connection with the continued investments in Boeing stock. View "Burke v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law

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Tribune and Sinclair announced an agreement to merge. Tribune abandoned the merger and sued Sinclair, accusing it of failing to comply with its contractual commitment to “use reasonable best efforts” to satisfy the demands of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the FCC, both of which could block the merger. Sinclair settled that suit for $60 million; the settlement disclaims liability. While the merger agreement was in place, investors bought and sold Tribune’s stock. In this class action investors alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by failing to disclose that Sinclair was “playing hardball with the regulators,” increasing the risk that the merger would be stymied.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The principal claims, which rest on the 1934 Act, failed under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Questionable statements, such as predictions that the merger was likely to proceed, were forward-looking and shielded from liability because Tribune expressly cautioned investors about the need for regulatory approval and the fact that the merging firms could prove unwilling to do what regulators sought, 15 U.S.C. 78u–5(c)(1)..With respect to the 1933 Act, the registration statement and prospectus through which the shares were offered stated all of the material facts. The relevant “hardball” actions occurred after the plaintiffs purchased shares. “Plaintiffs suppose that, during a major corporate transaction, managers’ thoughts must be an open book." No statute or regulation requires that. View "Arbitrage Event-Driven Fund v. Tribune Media Co." on Justia Law

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Arrive and Tech, compete to help customers coordinate shipments. Six employees at Arrive departed for Tech despite restrictive covenants. Arrive sued the six individuals and Tech for injunctive relief under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b)(3), claiming irreparable harm because the individuals had breached their restrictive covenants and misappropriated trade secrets.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Arrive has an adequate remedy at law for each of its claimed injuries, and faces no irreparable harm. Even if its argument were not forfeited, lost opportunities cannot support a showing of irreparable harm under these circumstances. The type of harm Arrive alleges would ultimately translate into lost profits, albeit indirectly, as in the end there is no economic value to opportunities that are not converted to sales. Given the balance of harms, the district court was within its discretion to deny injunctive relief. The court noted that the expiration of the time period of a former employee’s restrictive covenants does not render moot an employer’s request for an injunction to prevent the former employee from violating those restrictive covenants. A court could still grant Arrive effectual relief in the form of an injunction, even though certain individual defendants no longer work for Traffic Tech. View "DM Trans, LLC v. Scott" on Justia Law

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AFM ran 52 mattress stores in Indiana and Illinois. Motorists insured AFM with a policy covering loss of Business Income, Extra Expense, and loss due to actions of a Civil Authority. An exclusion applicable to all coverage stated: We will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the governors of Illinois and Indiana ordered the closure of businesses. AFM was forced to cease business activities at all of its stores. AFM submitted a claim for coverage. Motorists denied it.AFM sought a declaratory judgment in Illinois state court. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, based on the Virus Exclusion, rejecting a claim of “regulatory estoppel.” AFM claimed that Motorists misrepresented the Virus Exclusion to the Illinois Department of Insurance so that the regulators would approve it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Illinois does not recognize regulatory estoppel. The Virus Exclusion unambiguously precludes “civil authority” coverage. View "AFM Mattress Company, LLC v. Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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CCC and Tractable use algorithms and data generated by repair centers to provide estimates of the cost to repair damaged vehicles. Tractable dispatched its employee to obtain a license for CCC’s software. Using a false name, the employee purported to represent “JA,” a small, independent appraiser. CCC issued a license. The contract forbids assignment of the license without consent and represents that JA is acting on its own behalf, not as an agent for any third party, and forbids disassembly of the software or its incorporation into any other product. Tractable disassembled the software and incorporated some features into its own product. In CCC’s subsequent suit, Tractable moved for arbitration under the agreement between CCC and JA., arguing that “JA” is a name that Tractable uses for itself. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Tractable is not a party to the agreement. CCC could not have discovered that Tractable uses the name “JA.” Contractual meaning reflects words and signs exchanged between the negotiators, not unilateral, confidential beliefs. If a misrepresentation as to the character or essential terms of a proposed contract induces conduct that appears to be a manifestation of assent by one who neither knows nor has reasonable opportunity to know of the character or essential terms of the proposed contract, his conduct is not effective as a manifestation of assent.. The identity of CCC’s trading partner was a vital element of the deal. View "CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. v. Tractable Inc." on Justia Law

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In March 2020, to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Illinois Governor Pritzker ordered all persons living in the state to stay at home except to perform specified “essential activities” and ordered “non-essential” businesses to cease all but minimum basic operations. Childcare providers were permitted to continue operating only with an emergency license to care for the children of essential workers. Michigan’s Governor Whitmer issued a similar order. Both states lifted those restrictions by June 2020. West Bend denied claims by childcare centers under their all-risk commercial property insurance policies.The policies cover the actual loss of income and expense due to the suspension of an insured’s operations “caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property”. The loss or damage must be caused by “[d]irect physical loss.” Lost income and extra expenses are covered when a civil authority prohibits access to insured premises because of damage at nearby property. The policies cover income lost and expenses incurred when an insured’s operations are temporarily suspended by government order "due to an outbreak of a ‘communicable disease’ … at the insured premises.”The district court concluded that the Centers had not plausibly alleged that COVID-19 caused physical loss of or damage to their property—or to nearby property— or that government shutdown orders were due to an outbreak at their premises. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that other circuits have reached the same conclusion. View "Paradigm Care & Enrichment Center, L.L.C. v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Qin (from China) is among 165 foreign limited partners who collectively invested $82.5 million into the Colorado Regional Center Project Solaris LLLP (CRCPS), whose general partner is CRC-I (an LLC). The parent company of CRC-I is Waveland, which has a member (Deslongchamps) and a Milwaukee office. CRCPS was part of an approved U.S. EB-5 immigrant visa program through which Qin and others obtained permanent-resident visas as a result of their investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States. CRC-I invested CRCPS’s funds in a condominium project. The investment was a failure, allegedly due to CRC-I’s malfeasance. Qin, on behalf of a class of investors, wants to sue CRC-I in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He filed a petition under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 27, seeking leave to depose Deslongchamps, in order to identify CRC-1’s members.The district court denied the petition, reasoning that Qin’s request is not one to perpetuate testimony that is at risk of being lost. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While Qin faces an obstacle to pursuing federal court relief, and the dilemma posed by the non-corporate association whose members (and their citizenship) the plaintiff cannot ascertain despite reasonable investigatory efforts has been noted and discussed elsewhere, the court concluded that addressing that issue would require an advisory opinion. View "Qin v. Deslongchamps" on Justia Law