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Becker, a Missouri citizen, wanted to buy the St. Louis Ashley Power Plant. Through a Missouri corporation, SL, he secured financing from Power Investments, a Nevada corporation with one member, Miller, who lives and practices law in Kentucky. Power loaned SL $300,000. Becker called, texted, and emailed Miller extensively, seeking funds and making allegedly false assurances. Becker (through another Missouri entity, Ashley) signed a purchase agreement. The sale fell apart. Power bought Becker’s interest in Ashley, assuming the obligation of the power-plant deal. Power now owns the plant. Miller sued in Kentucky, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. Becker sued in Missouri, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent conveyance. Becker successfully moved to dismiss the Kentucky case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Becker “transact[ed] . . . business” and made “a telephone solicitation” within the meaning of Kentucky's long-arm statute. Under the Due Process Clause, a state can exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant only if that defendant has “minimum contacts” with the state sufficient to accord with “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” This case turns on specific jurisdiction, based on the “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy.” Becker initiated the relationship. He communicated with Miller extensively; Becker’s alleged misrepresentations in these communications constitute the core of Miller’s fraud claims. Becker “purposefully avail[ed] himself of the privilege of acting in [Kentucky] or causing a consequence” there. View "Power Investments, LLC v. SL EC, LLC" on Justia Law

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Seattle’s Duncan Place condominium complex was built in 2009, with Danze faucets in all 63 units. The faucets’ water hoses can corrode and crack in normal use. Several faucets failed, causing property damage and replacement costs. Danze’s “limited lifetime warranty” promises to replace defective parts. Danze refused to repair or replace the faucets. The Owners Association filed suit on behalf of itself, unit owners, and a proposed nationwide class, asserting claims under Washington law. The judge rejected all claims, holding that Washington’s independent-duty doctrine barred claims of negligence and strict product liability; the unjust-enrichment claim was premised on fraud but did not satisfy the FRCP 9(b) heightened pleading requirements. A Washington claim for breach of an express warranty requires that the plaintiff was aware of the warranty. Duncan Place was unable to make that allegation in good faith with respect to any unit owners. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. The Washington Product Liability Act subsumes the negligence and strict-liability claims; the “independent duty doctrine” generally bars recovery in tort for direct and consequential economic losses stemming from the product’s failure (damages associated with the “injury” to the product itself) but does not bar recovery for damage to other property. Duncan Place alleged in general terms that the defective faucets caused damage to other condominium property, so the WPLA claim is not entirely blocked by the independent duty doctrine. View "Duncan Place Owners Associatio v. Danze, Inc." on Justia Law

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Blue Bell Creameries USA, Inc. suffered a listeria outbreak in early 2015, causing the company to recall all of its products, shut down production at all of its plants, and lay off over a third of its workforce. Three people died as a result of the listeria outbreak. Pertinent here, stockholders also suffered losses because, after the operational shutdown, Blue Bell suffered a liquidity crisis that forced it to accept a dilutive private equity investment. Based on these unfortunate events, a stockholder brought a derivative suit against two key executives and against Blue Bell’s directors claiming breaches of the defendants’ fiduciary duties. The complaint alleges that the executives breached their duties of care and loyalty by knowingly disregarding contamination risks and failing to oversee the safety of Blue Bell’s food-making operations, and that the directors breached their duty of loyalty. The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to plead demand futility. The Court of Chancery granted the motion as to both claims. The Delaware reversed: "the mundane reality that Blue Bell is in a highly regulated industry and complied with some of the applicable regulations does not foreclose any pleading-stage inference that the directors’ lack of attentiveness rose to the level of bad faith indifference required to state a 'Caremark' claim. ... The complaint pled facts supporting a fair inference that no board-level system of monitoring or reporting on food safety existed." View "Marchand v. Barnhill, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Blooming Terrace No. 1 (“Blooming Terrace”) obtained an $11 million loan from KH Blake Street, LLC (“KH Blake Street”), a special purpose entity organized by Kresher Holdings, LLC. The loan was secured by a deed of trust and memorialized by promissory note. Blooming Terrace paid a $220,000 origination fee upon execution of that note. The note specified that interest would accrue on the outstanding principal at a rate of 11% per annum. In the event of default, the note provided for a higher default interest rate of 21% per annum. The note required monthly interest payments in the amount of 8% per annum throughout the term of the loan, though these periodic payments did not apply to reduce the principal balance of the loan. In the event of any late monthly payment, a 5% late fee was applicable to the overdue amount. The note was to mature in 2014. However, KH Blake Street reserved the right to accelerate Blooming Terrace’s full loan repayment obligation upon an event of default. Prior to paying down any portion of the principal, Blooming Terrace defaulted on its monthly payment obligation. The parties entered into a forbearance agreement; at that time, the parties stipulated that the accrued charges due and owing to KH Blake Street under the original loan agreement were $778,583.33. In exchange for KH Blake Street’s agreement not to pursue collection of that sum, or any other remedies, Blooming Terrace agreed to pay a $110,000 fee. Payment of this new fee did not substitute for any other charges that continued to accrue during the forbearance period, including, but not necessarily limited to, default interest and late fees. Instead, a condition of the forbearance was Blooming Terrace’s compliance with all of the original loan terms. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to clarify the proper method for determining the effective rate of interest charged on a nonconsumer loan to ascertain whether that rate was usurious under Colorado law: the effective interest rate should be calculated by determining the total per annum rate of interest that a borrower is subjected to during a given extension of credit. Here, where a forbearance agreement was entered into after an event of default, all charges that accrued during the period of forbearance must be totaled and then annualized using only that timeframe as the annualization period. Such includable interest must then be combined with any interest that continued to accrue pursuant to the original loan terms to determine the effective rate of interest subject to the 45% ceiling set by Colorado’s usury statute, section 5-12-103, C.R.S. (2018). View "Blooming Terrace No. 1, LLC v. KH Blake Street, LLC" on Justia Law

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Intervenor alleged that she was terminated by Northrop in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The Fourth Circuit held that intervenor did not qualify for whistleblower protection under 18 U.S.C. 1514A, because she did not engage in protected activity. In this case, neither of intervenor's complaints about Northrop's arbitration policy nor her complaints about violations of section 1514A(e) involved any of the basic elements of shareholder fraud. Furthermore, her beliefs were not objectively reasonable. Therefore, the court vacated the administrative orders and remanded the case with instructions for the dismissal of intervenor's complaint and entry of judgment for Northrop. View "Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. v. US Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The FTC and the State of North Dakota moved to enjoin Sanford Bismarck's acquisition of Mid Dakota, alleging that the merger violated section 7 of the Clayton Act. The district court determined that plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing the acquisition would substantially lessen competition in four types of physician services in the Bismarck-Mandan area. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction, holding that the district court did not improperly shift the ultimate burden of persuasion to defendants and properly followed the analytical framework in U.S. v. Baker Hughes, Inc., 908 F.ed 981 (D.C. Cir. 1990); the district court did not clearly err in defining the relevant market; and the district court's finding on merger-specific efficiencies was not clear error. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Sanford Health" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims stemming from failed investments in an electric vehicle startup, GreenTech. Plaintiffs are a group of 27 Chinese investors who invested $500,000 each in a partnership that loaned their money to GreenTech. Plaintiffs claimed that false statements were made relating to the partnership's fundraising efforts, as well as relating to GreenTech's sell of vehicles and business plans. Plaintiffs now seek to recover losses from their failed investments. The court held that the amended complaint failed to adequately allege justifiable reliance, instead relying on general and conclusory allegations. Even if plaintiffs had properly described who relied on each misstatement and how that person heard of it, they failed to plead justifiable reliance because the written offering documents controlled and contradicted the sorts of stray media statements attributed to GreenTech and the partnership. The court held that there was no plausible allegation in the complaint that defendants diverted plaintiffs from conducting a prudent and objectively reasonable investigation before investing. View "Xia Bi v. McAuliffe" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Appellants' claims in this putative class action against Lexington Insurance Company and other insurers alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq., holding that the facts Appellants pleaded demonstrated the absence of any circumstances constituting fraud. Appellants entered into structured settlement agreements with Lexington Insurance Company pursuant to which Lexington agreed that Appellants would receive specific periodic payments from annuities that Lexington would purchase. Appellants later brought this action alleging that Lexington and other affiliated insurers misrepresented the amount Appellants would receive from the settlements. The district court dismissed Appellants' claims with prejudice. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b). View "Ezell v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Fox used Amazon.com to order a hoverboard equipped with a battery pack. Although Fox claims she thought she was buying from Amazon, the hoverboard was owned and sold by a third-party that used Amazon marketplace, which handles communications with the buyer and processes payments. The board arrived in an Amazon-labeled box. The parties dispute whether Amazon provided storage and shipment. In November 2015, following news reports of hoverboard fires and explosions, Amazon began an investigation. On December 11, Amazon ceased all hoverboard sales worldwide. Approximately 250,000 hoverboards had been sold on its marketplace in the previous 30 days. Amazon anticipated more fires and explosions, scheduling employees to work on December 26, to monitor news reports and customer complaints. On December 12, Amazon sent a "non-alarmist" email to hoverboard purchasers. Fox does not recall receiving the email but testified that she would not have let the hoverboard remain in her home had she known all the facts. On January 9, Matthew Fox played with the hoverboard and left it on the first floor of the family’s two-story home. When a fire later broke out, caused by the hoverboard’s battery pack, two children were trapped on the second floor. Everyone escaped with various injuries; their home was destroyed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of allegations that Amazon sold the defective or unreasonably dangerous product (Tennessee Products Liability Act) and caused confusion about the source of that product (Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977) but reversed a claim that Amazon breached a duty to warn about the defective or unreasonably dangerous nature of that product under Tennessee tort law. View "Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Serco in an action alleging numerous claims arising out of a failed business relationship. Plaintiffs alleged that Serco conspired with Jaxon Engineering to "rig" a bidding process related to work for the Air Force, and thus interfered with plaintiffs' reasonable business expectancy in that work. The Court of Appeal held that the district court properly awarded summary judgment to Serco on the claims of tortious interference with business expectancy, because those claims failed as a matter of law. However, the court held that the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to Serco with respect to plaintiffs' conspiracy claims, because they were not time-barred and, in the alternative, the evidence that plaintiffs were the sole providers of HEMP-related services to Serco for several years was sufficient to create a dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiffs had a valid business expectancy in the task orders awarded to Jaxon. In regard to the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) claims, the court agreed with the district court that the two year statute of limitations applied to the claims but remanded for the district court to determine as a factual matter the particular limitations period for each of the COCCA claims. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "L-3 Communications Corp. v. Serco, Inc." on Justia Law