Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
The Happy Farmer, LLC d/b/a Releaf Alaska v. Alaska State Fair, Inc.
A vendor entered into an agreement for a merchandise booth inside a fairground building. After an unknown thief broke into the building and stole a significant amount of the vendor’s merchandise, the vendor sued the fair organization on contract and bailment theories. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the fair organization, and the vendor appealed one aspect of the superior court’s decision regarding bailment law. Based on the undisputed facts, the Alaska Supreme Court found no error in the superior court’s application of bailment law, and thus affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "The Happy Farmer, LLC d/b/a Releaf Alaska v. Alaska State Fair, Inc." on Justia Law
Bandy v. A Perfect Fit For You, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the business court refusing to authorize the court-appointed receiver for the company A Perfect Fit For You, Inc. to pay fees to the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (US), LLP for services rendered by Philip Mohr, one of the firm's attorneys, holding that the business court erred.The business court refused authorization solely on the basis of its conclusion that Mohr and the receiver had flagrantly disregarded requirements imposed by a previous court order establishing the process Womble and the receiver were required to follow when requesting authorization for fee payments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the business court (1) abused its discretion in denying authorization for the receiver to pay Womble fees incurred for Mohr's work; (2) erred in imposing monetary sanctions on Womble; and (3) erred in denying the receiver's request for permission to pay Womble's fee-litigation fees without making the necessary findings regarding the value to the receivership of the work that generated those fees. View "Bandy v. A Perfect Fit For You, Inc." on Justia Law
Ginsburg v. United States
Under the 1982 Tax Treatment of Partnership Items Act, 26 U.S.C. 6221–6232, partnership-related tax matters are resolved in two stages. During the partnership-level proceedings, the IRS may adjust items relevant to the partnership as a whole and determine the “applicability of any penalty.” The partnership can challenge the adjustment. All partners are bound by any final decision in a partnership-level proceeding.On its 2001 partnership tax return, AHG reported a $25,618 total loss. Ginsburg’s individual 2001 tax return reported a $10,069,505 loss from AHG to offset his income. In 2008, the IRS sent Ginsburg notice that it was proposing adjustments to AHG’s returns, alleging that AHG “was formed . . . solely for purposes of tax avoidance.” For Ginsburg, the IRS “disallowed” the $10,069,505 loss and said it would impose a 40 percent penalty for “gross valuation misstatement.”Based on Ginsburg’s concessions that he was not entitled to deduct AHG’s losses because he was not at risk and the partnership’s transactions did not have a substantial economic effect., the tax court found that AHG must be “disregarded for federal income tax purposes,” and adjusted AHG’s 2001 tax return. The court denied Ginsburg’s petition concerning the penalty, rejecting his argument that the government did not get “written approval of the penalty by an immediate supervisor,” as required by 26 U.S.C. 6751(b)(1). The district court agreed that Ginsburg could not have reasonably relied on the advice of his tax, legal, and financial advisors and would not consider Ginsburg’s supervisory approval argument because he did not exhaust it in his IRS refund claim.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In partnership tax cases, the supervisory approval issue must be exhausted with the IRS before the partner files his refund lawsuit and must be raised during the partnership-level proceedings. View "Ginsburg v. United States" on Justia Law
CDK Global LLC v. Brnovich
A 2019 Arizona statute prohibits auto dealer management system (DMS) providers from “tak[ing] any action by contract, technical means or otherwise to prohibit or limit a dealer’s ability to protect, store, copy, share or use” data the dealer has stored in its DMS. DMS providers may not impose charges “beyond any direct costs incurred” for database access. DMS providers may not prohibit the third parties contracted by the dealers “from integrating into the dealer’s data system,” nor may they otherwise “plac[e] an unreasonable restriction on integration.” DMS providers must “[a]dopt and make available a standardized framework for the exchange, integration, and sharing of data” with authorized integrators.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction against the statute’s enforcement. There is no conflict preemption; the statute and the federal Copyright Act are not irreconcilable. The statute does not conflict with 17 U.S.C. 106(1), which grants the owner of a copyrighted work the exclusive right “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.” The plaintiffs forfeited their claim that the statute impaired their contracts with third-party vendors and did not show that the statute impaired their ability to discharge their contractual duty to keep dealer data confidential. The statute was reasonably drawn to serve important public purposes of promoting consumer data privacy and competition and amounted to neither a per se physical taking nor a regulatory taking. View "CDK Global LLC v. Brnovich" on Justia Law
Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland
Oakland businesses must obtain a business tax certificate and pay business license taxes each year, based on the type of activities in which the business is engaged. A separate business tax certificate is required for each activity of the business unless the activity comprises less than 20 percent of the total gross receipts of the business. City tax authorities determine the appropriate business tax classifications based on the information reported by the taxpayer. Host held Port Department permits to occupy space and operate food, beverage, retail, and duty-free concessions at Oakland International Airport. The permits authorized Host to sublease its space to other parties with consent. In 2015, based on an audit of Host’s financial records, an auditor determined that Host owed Oakland unpaid business taxes, penalties, interest, and fees for rental income from subleases,2006-2015. Host had obtained a business certificate and paid business tax for its retail activities, but not for subleasing.Host unsuccessfully appealed, asserting that it was engaged only in retail sales (not commercial subleasing), that the 20 percent exception applied, and that Oakland could not collect some of the back taxes because of the statute of limitations. The Board, the trial court, and the court of appeal upheld the determination of a $371,195.40 tax liability. View "Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law
Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC
Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo
In 2019, Mallet learned that Bundy was its newest competitor in the sale of baking release agents, the lubricants that allow baked goods to readily separate from the containers in which they are made. Bundy was well-known for other commercial baking products when it launched a new subsidiary, Synova, to sell baking release agents. Synova hired two Mallet employees, both of whom had substantial access to Mallet’s proprietary information. That information from Mallet helped Synova rapidly develop, market, and sell release agents to Mallet’s customers.Mallet sued, asserting the misappropriation of its trade secrets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction. restraining Bundy, Synova, and those employees from competing with Mallet. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of what, if any, equitable relief is warranted and what sum Mallet should be required to post in a bond as “security … proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” A preliminary injunction predicated on trade secret misappropriation must adequately identify the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets. If the district court decides that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted, the injunction must be sufficiently specific in its terms and narrowly tailored in its scope. View "Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo" on Justia Law
Givago Growth, LLC v. iTech AG, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners' amended complaint against iTech AG, LLC and Robbins Law Group, PLLC (collectively, Appellees) alleging malicious abuse of process, slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, and civil conspiracy arising out of the filing of a lis pendens, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining Appellees' demurrers.In their demurrers to Petitioners' complaint, Appellees argued that the filing of a lis pendens is entitle to absolute privilege and that the complaint dd not plead valid claims for slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, or civil conspiracy. The circuit court sustained the demurrers on the basis that the information contained in a memorandum of lis pendens is subject to absolute privilege. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the information contained in the lis pendens was not sufficiently "relevant and pertinent to the matter under inquiry" for absolute privilege to apply in this case. View "Givago Growth, LLC v. iTech AG, LLC" on Justia Law
Gray v. Dignity Health
Gray received emergency medical care at St. Mary Medical Center, owned and operated by Dignity Health. He received a bill that included an “ ‘ER LEVEL 2 W/PROCEDU’ ” charge. Gray claims Dignity’s failure to disclose, before providing emergency medical treatment, that its bill for emergency services would include such a charge—either by posting “signage in and around” the emergency department or “verbally during the patients’ registration process” —is an unfair business practice under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and unlawful under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA).The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Gray does not claim that by including an ER Charge in its billing, Dignity violated any of the extensive state and federal statutory and regulatory laws governing the disclosure of hospital billing information and the treatment of persons presenting for treatment at an emergency department. Nor does he take issue with the hospital’s “chargemaster” amount for the Level 2 ER Charge, which his medical insurance largely covered. View "Gray v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law
McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc.
McKeon has sold “MACK’S” earplugs to retail consumers since the 1960s. In the 1980s, Honeywell's predecessor began marketing and selling MAX-brand earplugs to distributors. The brand names are phonetically identical. In 1995, McKeon sued. The parties entered a settlement agreement that the district court approved by consent decree. To prevent customer confusion, Honeywell agreed not to sell its MAX-brand earplugs into the “Retail Market” but could continue to sell its earplugs in “the Industrial Safety Market and elsewhere." The agreement and the consent decree never contemplated the internet. In 2017, McKeon complained about sales of MAX-brand earplugs on Amazon and other retail websites.The district court ruled in favor of McKeon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed and remanded. Laches is available to Honeywell as an affirmative defense but does not apply to these facts. Parties subject to consent decrees cannot scale their prohibited conduct over time, using minor undetected violations to justify later larger infringements. Honeywell did not establish that McKeon should have discovered the breaching conduct before Honeywell drastically increased online sales. McKeon’s interpretation of the consent decree is the better reading. Concluding that Amazon is a “retail establishment” makes sense given the parties’ intent. View "McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law