Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Imperial Sugar went bankrupt in 2001 and suffered a costly accident in 2008, prompting its sale to Louis Dreyfus. Imperial receives from Louis Dreyfus only minimal investment and is an “import-based, price-uncompetitive sugar refinery” that is “structurally uncompetitive” and lost roughly 10 percent of its customers from 2021-2022. Florida-based refiner U.S. Sugar agreed to purchase Imperial. The government sought an injunction (Clayton Act. 15 U.S.C. 18), arguing that the acquisition would have anticompetitive effects, leaving only two entities in control of 75% of refined sugar sales in the southeastern United States. The government applied the hypothetical monopolist test to demonstrate the validity of its proposed product and geographic markets. U.S. Sugar responded that it does not sell its own sugar but participates with other producers in a Capper-Volstead agricultural cooperative that markets and sells the firms’ output collectively but exercises no control over the quantities produced. At capacity, Imperial’s facility could produce only about seven percent of national output. U.S. Sugar argued that distributors constitute a crucial competitive check on producer-refiners that would undermine any attempt to increase prices and noted evidence of the high mobility of refined sugar throughout the country.The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of an injunction, upholding a finding that the government overlooked the pro-competitive effects of distributors in the market, erroneously lumped together heterogeneous wholesale customers, and defined the relevant geographic market without regard for the high mobility of sugar throughout the country. View "United States v. United States Sugar Corp." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit asserting federal securities claims. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants The district court subsequently performed a Federal Rule 11 inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 but did not award attorneys’ fees or impose any other sanctions.The Third Circuit held that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims by filing for an improper purpose. The plaintiffs expressly stated that their “strategy was to file these complaints to force a settlement.” In addition, their Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support in violation of Rule 11(b)(3). The plaintiffs had a reasonable basis for their Rule 10b-5 Securities Fraud Claim. The court vacated in part. The PSLRA creates a presumption in favor of awarding attorneys’ fees when a complaint constitutes a “substantial failure” to comply with Rule 11 but the district court did not err in finding that the Rule 11 violations were not substantial. Nonetheless, the PSLRA makes the imposition of sanctions mandatory after a court determines that a party violated Rule 11, so the court abused its discretion in declining to impose any form of sanctions. View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law

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Liposomal bupivacaine is a nonopioid pain medication that Pacira manufactures under the name EXPAREL; it is a local anesthetic administered at the time of surgery to control post-surgical pain. As of 2020, EXPAREL sales represented nearly all of Pacira’s total revenue. Pacira complains that the defendants, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, its journal, its editor, and authors published statements in a variety of forms, conveying their view that EXPAREL is “not superior” to standard analgesics or provides “inferior” pain relief.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Pacira’s suit for trade libel. Opinion statements are generally nonactionable. A “fair and natural” reading of the statements at issue shows that these are nonactionable subjective expressions. Pacira’s allegations boil down to disagreements about the reliability of the methodology and data underlying the statements; “a scientific conclusion based on nonfraudulent data in an academic publication is not a ‘fact’ that can be proven false through litigation.” Pacira failed to identify any aspect of the Articles, a Continuing Medical Education program, or a Podcast that “bring their conclusions outside the protected realm of scientific opinion.” View "Pacira Biosciences Inc v. American Society of Anesthesiologists Inc" on Justia Law

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During the tax years at issue, 2010–2013, the Taxpayers owned a New Jersey horse farm. Their Company employed several employees, none of whom had a budget. The Company paid the Taxpayers' personal expenses and lost more than $3.5 million during the years at issue and more than $11.4 million between 1998-2013. The Taxpayers contributed capital and made loans to the Company. In 2016, the Company sold a horse for nearly $1.2 million, enabling it to report a modest overall profit.In 2016, the IRS sent notices of income tax deficiencies. The Tax Court sustained the deficiency determinations, holding that the Taxpayers could not deduct Company losses because their horse breeding activity was not engaged in for profit under Internal Revenue Code section 183 and that the Taxpayers failed to substantiate net operating loss carryforwards that allegedly arose from Company activity. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Tax Court did not clearly err when it found that adverse market conditions did not explain the Company’s sustained unprofitability and correctly considered the Taxpayers’ substantial income from other sources. The profit generated from the 2016 horse sale was tempered by the fact that it occurred after the tax years at issue and after the notices of deficiency. The expertise of the Taxpayers and their advisors was the only factor that favored the Taxpayers. View "Skolnick v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Millennium's laboratory provides drug testing to healthcare professionals. Mauthe, a private practice MD, used Millennium’s services. On May 2, 2017, Millennium faxed all of its customers a single-page flyer promoting a free educational seminar to “highlight national trends in opioid misuse and abuse . . . and discuss the role of medication monitoring ... during the care of injured workers.” Although Millennium offered urine testing to detect opioids, the fax did not mention that service nor provide any pricing information, discounts, or product images. The seminar did not promote any goods or services for sale but described statistics on opioid abuse and the role of such drugs in chronic pain management. It explained that drug testing could help detect or monitor opioid abuse, and assessed the efficacy of several testing methods. The seminar did not identify providers or prices for any of the drug testing methods it reviewed. After the seminar, Millennium did not follow up with any registrants or attendees.Mauthe who has sued fax senders in more than 10 lawsuits since 2015, seeking damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, (b)(3), filed a putative class action against Millennium. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Liability under the TCPA extends only to “unsolicited advertisement[s],” meaning communications that promote the sale of goods, services, or property. Under an objective standard, no reasonable recipient could construe the seminar fax as such an unsolicited advertisement. View "Robert W Mauthe MD PC v. Millennium Health LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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