Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
by
NJBA, a non-profit trade association representing 88 New Jersey banks, sought to make independent expenditures and contributions to political parties and campaigns for state and local offices. NJBA has not made these payments because of N.J. Stats. 19:34-45, which provides that, “[n]o corporation carrying on the business of a bank . . . shall pay or contribute money or thing of value in order to aid or promote the nomination or election of any person, or in order to aid or promote the interests, success or defeat of any political party.” NJBA brought a facial challenge on its own behalf and on behalf of third-party banks.The district court held that section 19:34-45’s prohibition on independent expenditures violates the First Amendment but that the ban on political contributions by certain corporations does not violate the First Amendment and passes intermediate scrutiny. The Third Circuit reversed, declining to address the First Amendment issues. The statute does not apply to trade associations of banks. NJBA is not “carrying on the business of a bank.” With respect to the facial challenge, NJBA does not satisfy the narrow exception to the general rule against third-party standing. View "New Jersey Bankers Association v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, Tiversa, a cybersecurity company, informed LabMD, a medical testing business, that it had found LabMD’s confidential patient information circulating in cyberspace and that it could help LabMD respond to the data leak. LabMD’s own investigation revealed no leak. LabMD accused Tiversa of illegally accessing the patient information. Tiversa submitted a tip to the FTC, prompting an investigation. The FTC enforcement action and the reputational damage ruined LabMD. In 2014, a former Tiversa employee disclosed that the patient information did not spread from a leak but that Tiversa had accessed LabMD’s computer files and fabricated evidence of a leak.LabMD sued. In one suit, the district court dismissed claims of defamation and fraud after prohibiting the discovery or use of expert testimony. After finding that LabMD and its counsel breached those discovery limits, the court awarded fees and costs to the defendants, struck almost all of LabMD’s testimonial evidence, and revoked its counsel’s pro hac vice admission. When LabMD’s replacement counsel later tried to withdraw, the court denied that request. LabMD failed to pay the monetary sanctions; the Court held it in contempt. The second lawsuit, asserting similar fraud claims, was dismissed.The Third Circuit vacated in part. The prohibition on expert testimony was unwarranted; the court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions and erred in denying the motion to withdraw. LabMD’s other claims, in that case, were properly dismissed. In the second case, the court affirmed; LabMD did not challenge independently sufficient grounds for the decision. View "LabMD, Inc v. Tiversa Holding Corp" on Justia Law

by
PPG, a Pittsburgh company, developed a new kind of plastic for airplane windows, “Opticor™ A former PPG employee, Rukavina, agreed to share proprietary information concerning Opticor with TMG, a China-based manufacturer. TMG contacted the PPG subcontractor that made Opticor window molds, asking it to manufacture the same molds, attaching photographs and drawings from a proprietary report. The subcontractor alerted PPG, which notified the FBI, which executed warrants to search Rukavina’s email account and residence. Rukavina was charged with criminal theft of trade secrets.PPG filed a civil action against TMG, under RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c)-(d) and Pennsylvania law. TMG did not respond to the complaint, nor did it answer requests for admissions. More than a year after TMG should have appeared the clerk entered a default. PPG asserted actual damages of $9,909,687.31. Four months later, TMG appeared and unsuccessfully moved to set aside the default. The court held that PPG had sufficiently established TMG’s liability and was entitled to treble damages, an injunction, and attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The court found that $8,805,929 of the claimed actual damages were supported by sufficient evidence and entered judgment for $26,417,787.The Third Circuit affirmed. TMG effectively conceded the complaint’s allegations. Under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, it can be appropriate to measure unjust enrichment from a misappropriated trade secret by looking at development costs that were avoided but would have been incurred if not for the misappropriation. The district court carefully analyzed such evidence; its methodology and conclusion are sound. View "PPG Industries Inc v. Jiangsu Tie Mao Glass Co Ltd" on Justia Law

by
Under Pennsylvania law, a court may appoint a custodian to take control of a corporation if the corporation’s board of directors is deadlocked or if the directors’ acts are illegal, oppressive, fraudulent, or wasteful. The eight-person FRBK Board of Directors became evenly split into two factions until one of the Hill Directors died. The Madonna Directors immediately used their new numerical advantage to start rearranging the bank’s leadership and took steps to fill the Board vacancy with an ally.The Hill Directors sued. Within hours, the district court ordered the Madonna Directors to cease their actions. Nine days later, without an evidentiary hearing or fact-finding, the court appointed a custodian to take control of FRBK and to hold a special shareholders’ meeting to fill the vacant Board seat. The following month, the court – without prompting from any shareholder or Board member – directed the custodian to add a Board seat and to fill that seat at the special shareholders’ meeting.The Third Circuit reversed. The decision to displace the corporate governance structure of a publicly-traded company did not reflect the required caution, circumspection, or justification for such a drastic step. FRBK’s bylaws describe how the Board should proceed after the death of a director. The Madonna Directors followed those instructions. The court abused its discretion by hastily supplanting the Bylaws with its own process. There was no deadlock, illegality, oppression, or any other ground for appointing a custodian. View "Hill v. Cohen" on Justia Law

by
In 2007, Transit was awarded an exclusive license to bring telecommunications services to 277 New York City subway stations. Transit subcontracted with Fiber-Span, to develop remote fiber nodes to amplify telecommunication signals in the first six subway stations to receive service. Fiber-Span agreed to subsidize certain developmental costs, hoping to be selected as the contractor for the remaining 271 subway stations. Transit agreed that, if Fiber-Span was not selected to supply nodes for the remaining stations, Transit would reimburse those front-loaded costs. The relationship deteriorated. Transit asserted that Fiber-Span remained in breach of contract even after attempts to remediate problems but nevertheless took the network live. Transit insisted that Fiber-Span replace the nodes. Fiber-Span said it would do so only after it was awarded a contract for the remaining stations. Transit continued to use the nodes for two more years, then sued in New York state court. Fiber-Span filed for bankruptcy.The Third Circuit concluded Transit’s decision to keep using the nodes was consistent with the acceptance of non-conforming goods. Fiber-Span breached the contract; the damages must reflect the difference in value between what Transit received and what it was promised, which is less than what the bankruptcy and district courts awarded. Transit was not required to compensate Fiber-Span for not selecting it to provide nodes for the remaining subway stations. Transit’s claim to the payment on Fiber-Span's performance bond is time-barred. View "In re: Fiber-Span Inc" on Justia Law

by
Navient serviced the student loans of Matthew Panzarella. Matthew listed his mother (Elizabeth) and brother (Joshua) as references on student loan applications and promissory notes and provided their cell phone numbers. He became delinquent on his loans and failed to respond to Navient’s attempts to communicate with him. Call logs show that over five months, Navient called Elizabeth's phone number four times (three calls were unanswered) and Joshua's number 15 times (all unanswered), using “interaction dialer” telephone dialing software developed by ININ.The Panzarellas filed a putative class action, alleging violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, by calling their cellphones without their prior express consent using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS). Navient argued that its ININ System did not qualify as an ATDS because the system lacked the capacity to generate and call random or sequential telephone numbers. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Navient, without deciding whether Navient’s dialing equipment qualified as an ATDS. Despite the text’s lack of clarity, Section 227(b)(1)(A)’s context and legislative history establish it was intended to prohibit making calls that use an ATDS’s auto-dialing functionalities; the record establishes that Navient did not rely on random- or sequential number generation when it called the Panzarellas. View "Panzarella v. Navient Solutions Inc" on Justia Law

by
Host operates airport concessions. MarketPlace is the landlord at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). After competitive bidding, Host won PHL concession spots, planning to open a coffee shop and a restaurant. MarketPlace insisted on a lease term allowing it to grant “third-parties exclusive or semi-exclusive rights to be sole providers" of certain foods and beverages, including a “pouring-rights agreement” (PRA), “granting a beverage manufacturer, bottler, distributor or other company (e.g., Pepsi or Coca-Cola) the exclusive control over beverage products advertised, sold and served at [PHL].”Host abandoned the deal and sued, alleging that MarketPlace would receive payoffs from a “big soda company” courtesy of an exclusive PRA. The complaint alleged an unlawful tying arrangement and an illegal conspiracy and agreement in restraint of trade, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, finding Host failed to adequately plead a relevant geographic market. The Third Circuit affirmed. Host lacks antitrust standing and has not adequately pled a violation of the Sherman Act. Host alleged harm only to itself; failure to secure preferred contractual terms is not an antitrust injury. Host was not being forced to purchase any product. MarketPlace’s control over the non-alcoholic beverage suppliers at PHL does not stem from market power but from its role as a landlord. View "Host International Inc v. MarketPlace PHL LLC" on Justia Law

by
TitleMax provides vehicle loans at interest rates as high as 180%. The entire process occurs at a TitleMax brick-and-mortar location. The borrower receives “a check drawn on a bank outside of Pennsylvania,” The borrower grants TitleMax a security interest in the vehicle. TitleMax records its lien with the appropriate state authority. Borrowers can make payments from their home states. TitleMax does not have any offices, employees, agents, or brick-and-mortar stores and is not licensed as a lender in Pennsylvania. TitleMax claims that it never solicited Pennsylvania business and does not run television ads within Pennsylvania.Pursuant to the Consumer Discount Company Act and the Loan Interest and Protection Law, Pennsylvania’s Department of Banking and Securities issued a subpoena requesting documents regarding TitleMax’s interactions with Pennsylvania residents. TitleMax then stopped making loans to Pennsylvania residents and asserts that it has lost revenue.The district court held that Younger abstention did not apply and that the Department’s subpoena’s effect was to apply Pennsylvania’s usury laws extraterritorially in violation of the Commerce Clause.The Third Circuit reversed. Applying the Pennsylvania statutes to TitleMax does not violate the extraterritoriality principle. TitleMax receives payments from within Pennsylvania and maintains an actionable security interest in vehicles located in Pennsylvania; its conduct is not “wholly outside” of Pennsylvania. The laws do not discriminate between in-staters and out-of-staters. Pennsylvania has a strong interest in prohibiting usury. Applying Pennsylvania’s usury laws to TitleMax’s loans furthers that interest and any resulting burden on interstate commerce is, at most, incidental. View "TitleMax of Delaware Inc v. Weissmann" on Justia Law

by
For 20 years, the vendor (SDM) provided food services at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In 2014 the university announced that it would competitively bid the contract for on-campus dining. The same vendor ultimately won that competition but about two years into the contract’s 10-year duration, the vendor sued the university for fraud, multiple breaches of contract, and alternatively for unjust enrichment. The university responded with fraud and breach-of-contract counterclaims. Only a few of the vendor’s breach-of-contract claims and portions of the university’s breach-of-contract claim survived summary judgment. The parties referred the remaining claims and counterclaims to arbitration and jointly moved to dismiss them. The district court granted that motion and entered final judgment, which the parties appealed, primarily to dispute the summary judgment ruling.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Drexel’s favor on SDM’s unjust enrichment and punitive damages claims, summary judgment in SDM’s favor on Drexel’s fraudulent inducement claim, and the district court’s decision to deny Drexel’s motion to strike declarations by SDM witnesses under the sham affidavit rule. The court vacated an order granting summary judgment to Drexel on SDM’s claims for fraudulent inducement, breach of contract for failure to renegotiate in good faith, and breach of a supplemental agreement for the Fall 2016 Semester. The surviving claims were remanded to the district court. View "SodexoMAGIC LLC v. Drexel University" on Justia Law

by
Vitamin Energy is the defendant in 5-hour Energy’s 2019 lawsuit under the Lanham Act for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, false advertising, and trademark dilution; 5-hour also made claims under Michigan law for trademark infringement, indirect trademark infringement, and unfair competition. Vitamin Energy was insured by Evanston. In a declaratory judgment action, the district court decided Evanston had no duty to defend. The Third Circuit vacated. Pennsylvania law imposes on insurers a broad duty to defend lawsuits brought against those they insure. An insured’s burden to establish its insurer’s duty to defend is light, and Vitamin Energy has carried it. The policy excludes coverage for Advertising Injury, defined as an injury “arising out of oral or written publication of material that libels or slanders.” While some allegations of the complaint involve disparagement, others do not. An underlying complaint need only contain at least one allegation that falls within the scope of the policy’s coverage for the duty to defend to be triggered. The duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. Similarly, exclusions for suits based on “Intellectual Property,” “Incorrect Description,” “Failure to Conform,” and “Knowing” actions do not defeat the duty to defend. View "Vitamin Energy LLC v. Evanston Insurance Co" on Justia Law