Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Commercial Law
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Plaintiff filed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims against several parties after a family-help ranch was sold to a corporate entity against his knowledge.In 1961, Plaintiff’s father and grandfather formed the Healy Ranch Partnership (“HRP”). In 1986, Plaintiff’s grandmother transferred her partnership interest to Plaintiff in exchange for him assuming the partnership’s debt and making certain payments to her. In 1994, Plaintiff’s mother formed a South Dakota corporation, Healy Ranch, Inc. (“HRI”). She filed articles of incorporation authorizing HRI to issue 1,000,000 shares of common stock with a par value of one dollar per share. The articles of incorporation stated that the “corporation will not commence business until consideration of the value of at least Five Thousand Dollars has been received for the issuance of shares.” That same year, Plaintiff’s mother and her lawyer caused HRI to issue nearly 300,000 shares without consideration. In 1995, Plaintiff’s mother conveyed all of the partnership’s real-property interest in the ranch to HRI, including both her 50 percent share as well as Plaintiff’s 50 percent share. In 2000, Plaintiff’s mother sold one-third of her shares of HRI to Plaintiff and one-third to each of his two brothers. In Healy I, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s actions.Plaintiff then filed this RICO action; which the court dismissed because it ran afoul of res judicata and the four-year statute of limitations for RICO claims. View "Bret Healy v. Albert Fox" on Justia Law

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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

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Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that federal bankruptcy law did not preempt Plaintiff's state law claims asserted against non-debtor third parties for tortious interference with a contract.Plaintiff loaned $147,250,000 to nonparties "Mezz Borrower" and "Mortgage Borrower" (collectively, Borrowers). Borrowers later defaulted, and Plaintiff sought to conduct a foreclosure sale of Mezz Borrower's 100 percent membership interest in Mortgage Borrower pursuant to the pledge and security agreement. Mezz Borrower and Mortgage Borrower subsequently filed separate voluntary petitions for chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court. Plaintiff then commenced this action in state court alleging that Defendants had tortiously interfered with the loan agreements between Plaintiff and the nonparty borrowers. Defendants - various affiliated persons and entities - moved for summary judgment on the ground that the action was preempted by the Bankruptcy Code. Supreme Court denied the motion, holding that the action was not preempted because it did not involve the bankruptcy. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that Plaintiff's claims were preempted by federal law because damages arose only because of the bankruptcy filings. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendants failed to meet their burden of establishing that federal bankruptcy law preempted Plaintiff's tortious interference claims. View "Sutton 58 Associates LLC v. Pilevsky" on Justia Law

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The Coalition, an association of franchised New Jersey new car dealerships, filed suit under the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act on behalf of 16 Mazda dealer-members. Mazda had an incentive program for its franchised dealers (MBEP), which provides incentives, per-vehicle discounts or rebates on the dealers’ purchases of vehicles from Mazda, to dealers who make certain investments in their physical facilities that highlight their sale of Mazda vehicles or dedicate their dealerships exclusively to the sale of Mazda vehicles. The incentives come in different tiers, with the highest tier available to dealers who have exclusive Mazda facilities and a dedicated, exclusive Mazda general manager. Mazda dealers also earn incentives if they meet customer experience metrics. Mazda dealers who sell other brands of vehicles as well as Mazdas, do not receive incentives for brand commitment. Only three of the 16 Mazda dealers in the Coalition qualified for the highest tier; eight others qualified for some tier of incentives. The complaint alleged that the MBEP creates unfair competitive advantages for dealers who qualify for incentives under the MBEP at the expense of those dealers who do not, and even among incentivized dealers through different tiers.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the case, rejecting as too narrow the district court’s rationale--that the Coalition lacked standing because only five of the 16 Mazda dealers would benefit from the lawsuit, so the Coalition cannot possibly be protecting the interests of its members. View "New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, Inc. v. Mazda Motor of America Inc" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's compliant alleging revocation of acceptance and breach of warranty as time-barred, holding that the court relied upon facts contained in documents that exceeded the scope of the facts that may be considered by the court in the context of a motion to dismiss.Appellant brought this action alleging claims with respect to a bicycle frame that he purchased that was manufactured by Independent Fabrication, Inc. The district court dismissed the complaint as barred by the four-year statute of limitations set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. 11, 2-725. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of dismissal on procedural grounds and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the court's consideration of matters outside the pleadings in granting Independent's motion to dismiss was in error. View "Greif v. Independent Fabrication, Inc." on Justia Law

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Louisiana-Pacific produces “engineered-wood” building siding—wood treated with zinc borate, a preservative that poisons termites; Hardie sells fiber-cement siding. To demonstrate the superiority of its fiber cement, Hardie initiated an advertising campaign called “No Wood Is Good,” proclaiming that customers ought to realize that all wood siding—however “engineered”—is vulnerable to damage by pests. Its marketing materials included digitally-altered images and video of a woodpecker perched in a hole in Louisiana-Pacific’s siding with nearby text boasting both that “Pests Love It,” and that engineered wood is “[s]ubject to damage caused by woodpeckers, termites, and other pests.” Louisiana-Pacific sued Hardie, alleging false advertising, and moved for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Louisiana-Pacific failed to show that it would likely succeed in proving the advertisement unambiguously false under the Lanham Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. View "Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. James Hardie Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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A trial court’s authority to distinguish between genuine and non-genuine fact issues includes the authority to apply the so-called “sham affidavit rule” when confronted with evidence that appears to be a sham designed to avoid summary judgment.Under the sham affidavit rule, if a party submits an affidavit that conflicts with the affiant’s prior sworn testimony and does not provide a sufficient explanation for the conflict, a trial court may disregard the affidavit when deciding whether the party has raised a genuine fact issue to avoid summary judgment. In this commercial dispute, the trial court struck an affidavit as a sham under the rule and granted partial summary judgment. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed and adopted the sham affidavit doctrine, which had not previously been explicitly recognized by the court of appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision as to the partial summary judgment grant, as the trial court properly concluded that the affidavit in question did not raise a genuine fact issue sufficient to survive summary judgment. The Court then remanded to the court of appeals to consider whether any claims remained unresolved. View "Lujan v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Philip White obtained a judgment for $100,000 in compensatory damages and moved for an award of prejudgment interest. The district court denied the motion, viewing the bulk of the award as compensation for noneconomic damages. White argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit that the Court should: (1) overrule earlier opinions and find that prejudgment interest was always available for compensatory awards under 42 U.S.C. 1983; or (2) conclude that the district court abused its discretion in disallowing prejudgment interest. The Court rejected both of White's arguments, finding it could not overrule published opinions by other Tenth Circuit panels. Applying an abuse-of-discretion standard, the Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying prejudgment interest on the award of noneconomic compensatory damages; and (2) the district court could reasonably decline to speculate on the amount the jury had regarded as economic damages. View "White v. Wycoff" on Justia Law

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Whitney National Bank (Whitney) obtained a judgment against Daniel Fitzpatrick and his business entities (collectively, Fitzpatrick). In a separate matter, Fitzpatrick, represented by O’Brien & Wolf, LLP, obtained a judgment against the City of Oronoco. Whitney served a garnishment summons on the City to establish and perfect a garnishment lien against the judgment proceeds won by Fitzpatrick. O’Brien subsequently filed a motion to establish and determine the amount and priority of its attorney’s lien. The district court held that Whitney’s garnishment lien was superior to O’Brien’s attorney’s lien, concluding that a cause-of-action attorney’s lien is perfected, as against third parties, from the time the attorney files notice of the lien claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of Minn. Stat. 481.13(1)(a)(1) does not require an attorney with a cause-of-action attorney’s lien to file notice of the lien claim for the lien to have priority over third-party claims. View "City of Oronoco v. Fitzpatrick Real Estate, LLC" on Justia Law