Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Babaletos v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc.
The case involves an appeal from a wrongful death action brought by Joni Babaletos, the personal representative of her late husband Thomas Babaletos, against Demoulas Super Markets, Inc., Philip Morris USA Inc., and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Babaletos claimed that the cigarettes produced and sold by the defendants caused her husband's death. She brought claims for breach of warranty in design, negligence in design and marketing, fraud, civil conspiracy, and unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of G. L. c. 93A, § 9. The jury found for the defendants on the four claims presented to them, and the trial judge subsequently found no liability with respect to the c. 93A claim.On appeal, Babaletos argued that the trial judge's imposition of time limits for the presentation of evidence forced her to omit essential evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that Babaletos failed to demonstrate either an abuse of discretion by the trial judge or how she was prejudiced by the imposition of time limits. The court noted that the trial judge had repeatedly offered to extend scheduled half days to full days should the need arise during trial, but Babaletos made no such requests as the trial progressed. As such, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court also provided guidance for trial judges who believe that setting time limits for the presentation of evidence would be prudent in a particular case. View "Babaletos v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc." on Justia Law
Mathiesen v. Kellogg
In this case, Christopher Mathiesen, the owner of a limited liability company, appealed a court's order dismissing his complaint against Kristi Kellogg, who was alleged to be a co-owner of the company. The court dismissed the complaint after it was consolidated with another case involving the same parties and the same basic underlying facts. The main issue was whether the Nebraska Supreme Court had jurisdiction over Mathiesen's appeal of the order dismissing his complaint. The court found that it did not have jurisdiction because the order was not a final order that decided all the claims between all the parties. Instead, it was an order that only dismissed some of the claims and did so without the required express direction for the entry of judgment and express determination that there was no just reason to delay an appeal. The court also held that when cases are consolidated in Nebraska, they become a single case, and so the order dismissing the complaint did not fully dispose of the entire case. As a result, the court dismissed Mathiesen's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Mathiesen v. Kellogg" on Justia Law
Howell v. Urban League of Rhode Island, Inc.
In this case, the plaintiff, Andre Howell, acting as the treasurer of the Urban League of Rhode Island, Inc., initiated a receivership proceeding for the Urban League. Julie Longtin, the appellant, filed a proof of claim in the receivership proceeding, stating that she was claiming for the amount due to her former company, Antari Properties, LLC. However, the Superior Court denied her proof of claim on the grounds that she lacked standing. Longtin then filed a motion under Rule 60(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking relief from the order that denied her proof of claim. However, the Superior Court also denied her Rule 60(b) motion.Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the order of the Superior Court. The Supreme Court noted that its review of a Rule 60(b) motion is limited to examining the correctness of the order granting or denying the motion, not the correctness of the original judgment. The Court found that Longtin had not demonstrated excusable neglect or pointed to new evidence that would warrant relief under Rule 60(b). The Court also noted that the hearing justice did not abuse his discretion in denying the Rule 60(b) motion. Thus, the denial of Longtin's Rule 60(b) motion by the Superior Court was upheld. View "Howell v. Urban League of Rhode Island, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Delaware Public Schools Litigation
In the State of Delaware, a lawsuit was brought by two non-profit organizations against multiple public officials, including tax collectors in Delaware's three counties. The organizations sought increased funding for Delaware’s public schools. The Court of Chancery held that the organizations were entitled to attorneys’ fees and expenses. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware held that the Court of Chancery erred in its application of the "common benefit doctrine" and its expansion of a precedent case, Korn v. New Castle County, beyond taxpayer suits. The Supreme Court affirmed the Chancery Court's award of expenses, but reversed the award of attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court held that the litigation brought by the organizations was to compel the defendant county governments to comply with the law, a benefit that did not warrant an exception to the "American Rule" which states that each party bears its own attorneys' fees, absent certain exceptions. The Court also held that, even if this case were a taxpayer suit, it does not meet the standard set forth in Korn because there was not a quantifiable, non-speculative monetary benefit for all taxpayers. View "In re Delaware Public Schools Litigation" on Justia Law
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA. v. WESTLAKE CHEMICAL CORPORATION
The case in question arose from a multi-million-dollar loss suffered by Westlake Chemical Corporation and Axiall Corporation (the respondents) at their chlorine manufacturing plant in Natrium, West Virginia. The loss occurred when 90 tons of liquid chlorine leaked from a rupture in a railroad tanker car that had been recently repaired by third-party contractors. The liquid chlorine vaporized into a cloud or plume that caused corrosion damage to the equipment at the plant. The respondents claimed the damage costs from their insurance companies (the petitioners). However, the insurance companies denied coverage based on three exclusions in the insurance policies relating to corrosion, faulty workmanship, and contamination. The case reached the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which was asked to review three orders of the Circuit Court of Marshall County, West Virginia, Business Court Division. The lower court had granted partial summary judgment to the respondents, finding that none of the three exclusions barred the respondents’ coverage claims. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia concluded that the lower court's orders were not final orders subject to appeal at this stage of the proceedings. This was due to unresolved issues of causation and damages, and because the orders did not conclusively determine the disputed controversy, resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, or were effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal, without prejudice. View "NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA. v. WESTLAKE CHEMICAL CORPORATION" on Justia Law
Contitech USA, Inc. v. McLaughlin Freight Services, Inc.
Contitech USA, Inc., a division of tire manufacturer Continental AG, contracted with a trucking company, McLaughlin Freight Services, Inc., and its owner, Dan McLaughlin, to deliver rubber between two of its facilities. The fee schedule included a base rate and a higher "rounder" rate, which required pre-approval from Contitech. Over three years, McLaughlin submitted 645 unapproved "rounder" bills to the third-party payments administrator, using fraudulent emails that purported to show pre-approval from Contitech. Contitech discovered the scheme and sued for fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find for Contitech on the fraud and unjust-enrichment counts. The court rejected McLaughlin's argument that Contitech failed to prove proximate cause and damages, noting that under Iowa law, a defrauding defendant cannot claim that its misrepresentations did not cause any damages to the plaintiff. Furthermore, McLaughlin was contractually obligated not to charge rounder rates without pre-approval from Contitech. Thus, a reasonable jury could have found that the difference between the contractual base rate and the actual billed amount was the amount of money McLaughlin received, which in equity and good conscience belonged to Contitech.The court also affirmed the district court's decision to remit Contitech's unjust-enrichment award to $0 and to remit McLaughlin’s damages award to prevent double recovery. The court reasoned that while a party is entitled to proceed on various theories of recovery, it is not entitled to collect multiple awards for the same injury. Furthermore, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting pre-judgment interest to Contitech, and that postjudgment interest is mandatory under 28 U.S.C. § 1961 and should be awarded regardless of whether the district court orders it. View "Contitech USA, Inc. v. McLaughlin Freight Services, Inc." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc.
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, the State of Illinois, represented by the Attorney General, alleged that Elite Staffing, Inc., Metro Staff, Inc., and Midway Staffing, Inc. (collectively, the staffing agencies) violated the Illinois Antitrust Act. The agencies, which supplied temporary workers to a company called Colony Display, were claimed to have agreed to fix wages for their employees at below-market rates and agreed not to hire each other's employees. The staffing agencies argued that the Act did not apply to the charged conduct, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for interlocutory review.The Supreme Court held that the Illinois Antitrust Act does not exempt agreements between competitors to hold down wages and to limit employment opportunities for their employees from antitrust scrutiny. For the purposes of the Act, the court clarified that "service" does not exclude all agreements concerning labor services. It particularly noted that multiemployer agreements concerning wages they will pay their employees and whether they will hire each other's employees may violate the Act unless the agreement arises as part of the bargaining process and the affected employees, through their collective bargaining representatives, have sought to bargain with the multiemployer unit.The court vacated the appellate court’s answer to a question it had formulated and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc." on Justia Law
Reeves v. Wilson Floor and Wallcovering, Inc.
In November 2015, Joseph H. Reeves contracted with Wilson Floor & Wallcovering, Inc. ("Wilson Floor") and its owner, Tom Wilson, to replace the wood flooring in his home. After the work was completed, Reeves found the new flooring to be unlevel and claimed that Wilson Floor and Tom Wilson refused to make further repairs. Reeves filed a complaint against "Tom Wilson" and "Wilson Flooring" in May 2017, alleging negligence, fraudulent suppression, fraudulent inducement, and breach of contract.The Supreme Court of Alabama reviewed the case after the Autauga Circuit Court dismissed Reeves's claims against Wilson Floor due to "lack of service" under Rule 4, Ala. R. Civ. P. Although it was undisputed that Reeves's attempted service on Wilson Floor was ineffective, the Supreme Court of Alabama concluded that Wilson Floor was adequately informed of Reeves's action against it, and hence, the trial court's dismissal of his claims against Wilson Floor was prohibited under Rule 4(i)(2)(C).The Court noted that while Tina Wilson, Tom Wilson's wife, was not Wilson Floor's registered agent, she was one of the company's listed officers and could accept service on its behalf. As Tina had actually received the summons and the complaint, the Court established that Wilson Floor was informed of Reeves's action within time to avoid default. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the trial court's order dismissing Reeves's action against Wilson Floor and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Reeves v. Wilson Floor and Wallcovering, Inc." on Justia Law
Campfield v. Safelite Group, Inc.
In a dispute between Ultra Bond, Inc., and its owner, Richard Campfield (collectively "Ultra Bond"), and Safelite Group, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively "Safelite"), both parties operate in the vehicle glass repair and replacement industry. Ultra Bond alleges that Safelite violated the Lanham Act by falsely advertising that windshield cracks longer than six inches could not be safely repaired and instead required replacement of the entire windshield. Safelite counterclaims that Ultra Bond stole trade secrets from Safelite in violation of state and federal law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the district court was incorrect to grant summary judgment to Safelite on Ultra Bond’s Lanham Act claim. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Safelite's allegedly false statements may have caused economic injury to Ultra Bond, and this issue should go to a jury.The court also affirmed the district court's decision that Safelite's claims for conversion, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference with contract were preempted by the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act (OUTSA). However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite’s claim under OUTSA, ruling that Safelite's claim was not time-barred and should be evaluated further in the lower court.Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite's unfair competition claim, finding that Safelite hadn't provided enough evidence to support its claim that Ultra Bond's statements were false or that they had led to a diversion of customers from Safelite to Ultra Bond. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Campfield v. Safelite Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Green Plains Trade Group, LLC v. Archer Daniels Midland Co.
The case involves Green Plains Trade Group, LLC, who appealed the district court's dismissal of their claim for tortious interference with contract against Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). Green Plains alleged that ADM unlawfully manipulated the price of ethanol, causing Green Plains to receive less money for the ethanol it sold to third parties. The district court dismissed the case, saying Green Plains hadn't specified the contracts ADM interfered with or shown a breach of contract. Green Plains argued that under Nebraska law, tortious interference doesn't always require a breach and that ADM's actions made its performance under its contracts "more expensive or burdensome."The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals found that while the district court was correct to require Green Plains to plead more than general allegations about its contracts, it may have required too much specificity. The Court of Appeals also found that the district court erred in not recognizing section 766A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts as part of Nebraska's law, which allows a plaintiff to bring a successful tortious interference with contract claim even if the contract was not breached. The Court of Appeals held that the district court must apply the law as it believes the highest court of the state would apply it if the case were now before it, and it should not fear adopting the less restrictive approach if it believes the state's highest court would adopt that approach. View "Green Plains Trade Group, LLC v. Archer Daniels Midland Co." on Justia Law