by
In 2007, OFTI sold a mill to TAK. During the financial crunch, Goldman Sachs cut $19 million from the financing. OFTI had promised clean title, but with the reduced financing, was unable to pay off all security interests. TAK agreed to issue negotiable notes, aggregating about $16 million, to OFTI, which would offer them as substitute security. The creditors accepted the notes. The transaction closed. OFTI promised to pay the notes. The lenders who released their security had the credit of both companies behind the notes. TAK was to hire an OFTI construction firm to build new mills; if TAK did not arrange for this construction and did not pay the notes, OFTI could cancel the notes and acquire a 27% interest in TAK. Neither paid the notes. The new mills did not materialize. OFTI demanded a 27% equity interest in TAK. Some formerly secured creditors have not been paid and retain promissory notes; OFTI does not possess any of the notes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. A hold-harmless agreement effectively prevents OFTI from enforcing the notes against TAK; whatever TAK gave to OFTI would be returned in indemnification. The notes were designed as security for third parties, not as compensation for OFTI. Additionally, under Wisconsin’s UCC applicable to negotiable instruments, OFTI is not entitled to enforce the notes because it is not their holder, is not in possession of them, and is not entitled to enforce them under specified sections. If OFTI could use nonpayment as a reason to cancel the notes, they would be worthless to the creditors. View "Tissue Technology LLC v. TAK Investments LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court dismissing the postconviction proceedings brought by Appellant, a prisoner under sentence of death, but not discharging counsel, holding that the postconviction court’s order was not erroneous. Appellant was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery. The jury recommended sentence of death by a vote of seven to five, and the trial court imposed a sentence of death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to vacate judgments of conviction and sentence of death pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. After concluding that Appellant sought to waive the postcondition proceedings, the postconviction court dismissed the postconviction motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Appellant’s waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent, and therefore, valid, and the postconviction court properly allowed Appellant to waive the instant proceedings while maintaining counsel. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of American Honda Finance Corporation (Honda) on Plaintiff’s putative class action alleging that Honda violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws, holding that summary judgment was improper on some of Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff claimed that Honda afforded her inadequate loan-deficiency notifications after she fell behind on her automobile-loan payments. Because Plaintiff’s claims hinged entirely on questions of Massachusetts law, the First Circuit certified three questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). After the SJC issued an opinion responding to these questions and the parties filed supplemental briefs, the First Circuit issued this opinion. The Court held (1) Plaintiff’s challenge to the district court’s ruling that Honda sold her car for fair market value was waived; (2) the district court erred in finding that the post-repossession and post-sale notices Honda sent to Plaintiff complied with the requirements of Massachusetts law; and (3) therefore, entry of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 106, 9-614 and 9-616 notice and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2(A) claims was improper. View "Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court accepted a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and answered that online fantasy sports operators that condition entry to contests on payment and distribute cash prizes do not violate the Indiana right of publicity statute when those organizations use the names, pictures, and statistics of players without their consent. At issue was Indiana’s right of publicity statute, Ind. Code 32-36-1-8(a), which provides that “a person may not use an aspect of a personality’s right of publicity for a commercial purpose…without having obtained previous written consent.” Plaintiffs, collegiate student althetes, filed this class action complaint alleging that Defendants, DraftKings, Inc. and FanDuel, Inc., used their names and likenesses in operating online fantasy sports contest without their consent, in violation of their right of publicity. The district court dismissed the suit. Plaintiffs appealed, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Indiana law to the Supreme Court. The Court answered that Indiana’s right of publicity statute contains an exception for “material that has newsworthy value” that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ names, pictures, and statistics for online fantasy sports. View "Daniels v. FanDuel, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Connecticut imposed liability for breaches of contract when attended by deception. Unhappy with flanges purchased under a contract with PM Engineered Solutions, Inc. (“Powdered Metal”), Bosal Industries-Georgia, Inc. (“Bosal”) decided to switch suppliers and terminate the contract. After a five-day bench trial, the district court found that the termination was not only wrongful in breach of the contract, but that it was deceptive in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Because Connecticut law applied and the district court’s findings rested on a permissible view of the evidence, the Sixth Circuit affirmed except as to the calculation of postjudgment interest on damages. View "Premium Freight Mgmt. v. PM Engineered Solutions" on Justia Law

by
Exel, a shipping broker, sued SRT, an interstate motor carrier, after SRT lost a load of pharmaceuticals owned by Exel’s customer, Sandoz, that was being transported from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. After nearly seven years of litigation, including a prior appeal, the district court entered judgment for Exel and awarded it the replacement cost of the lost pharmaceuticals, approximately $5.9 million. SRT argued that the district court erred in discounting bills of lading that ostensibly limited SRT’s liability to a small fraction of the shipment’s value. Exel argued that the court erred in measuring damages by the replacement cost of the pharmaceuticals rather than by their higher market value. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Exel and SRT had a Master Transportation Services Agreement (MTSA), which stated that any bill of lading “shall be subject to and subordinate to” the MTSA; that SRT “shall be liable” to Exel for any “loss” to commodities shipped pursuant to the agreement; and that the “measurement of the loss . . . shall be the Shipper’s replacement value.” The Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706 “puts the burden on the carrier to demonstrate that the parties had a written agreement to limit the carrier’s liability, irrespective [of] whether the shipper drafted the bill of lading.” SRT did not carry its burden to show that it effectively limited its liability. View "Exel, Inc. v. Southern Refrigerated Transport, Inc." on Justia Law

by
JTE, distributed products for Bimbo around Chicago under an agreement with no fixed duration that could be terminated in the event of a non-curable or untimely-cured breach. New York law governed all disputes. According to JTE, Bimbo began fabricating curable breaches in 2008 in a scheme to force JTE out as its distributor and install a less-costly distributor. Bimbo employees filed false reports of poor service and out-of-stock products in JTE’s distribution area and would sometimes remove products from store shelves, photograph the empty shelves as “proof” of a breach, and then return the products to their shelves. Once, a distributor caught a Bimbo manager in the act of fabricating a photograph. Bimbo assured JTE that this would never happen again. In 2011, Bimbo unilaterally terminated JTE’s agreement, citing the fabricated breaches, and forced JTE to sell its rights to new distributors. JTE claims that it did not learn about the scheme until 2013-2014. The district court dismissed JTE’s suit for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the primary-purpose test, the agreement qualifies as a contract for the sale of goods, governed by the UCC’s four-year statute of limitations, not by the 10-year period for other written contracts. With respect to tortious interference, the court reasoned that JTE knew about the shelving incidents and should not have “slumber[ed] on [its] rights” until it determined the exact way in which it was harmed. View "Heiman v. Bimbo Foods Bakeries Distribution Co." on Justia Law

by
Empire a distributor of alcoholic beverages, is New York State’s exclusive distributor for popular brands like Johnnie Walker, Grey Goose, and Seagram’s Gin. Empire alleges that from 2008-2014, Reliable and (non‐party) RNDC, among Maryland’s largest liquor distributors, conspired with retail liquor stores in Cecil County, Maryland and New York City to smuggle liquor from Maryland to New York, in violation of New York liquor law. Empire sued Reliable and several Cecil County and New York retailers under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, alleging that their bootlegging directly harmed Empire “because every case of alcohol smuggled into New York from Maryland was a lost sale by New York’s authorized distributors.” The defendants argued that the smuggling operation did not directly cause Empire to lose sales and that Empire had not adequately alleged proximate cause under RICO. The district court dismissed the case. The Second Circuit affirmed. Empire failed to allege proximate cause adequately. Empire adequately alleged a smuggling scheme, satisfying the first element of wire fraud and satisfied the third element of wire fraud, alleging “dozens of specific wire communications allegedly made by defendants.” The Supreme Court, however, has suggested the need for skepticism “to claims brought by economic competitors” and New York State was a more direct victim of the smuggling operation. View "Empire Merchants, LLC v. Reliable Churchill, LLLP" on Justia Law

by
In this consolidated action, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering class certification. Plaintiffs, service station operators and franchised dealers for gasoline products supplied by Defendant, a wholesale supplier, commenced this putative class action alleging that the proposed class members had been overcharged. Defendant then commenced a separate action against one of the plaintiffs. In response, that plaintiff filed a counterclaim styled as a proposed class action that mirrored Plaintiffs’ complaint in the earlier action. The trial court solicited the two actions and then allowed the action to proceed as a class action. Defendant appealed from the orders certifying the class. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering class certification. View "Standard Petroleum Co. v. Faugno Acquisition, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Sabafon, a telephone company based wanted cards to provide prepaid minutes of phone use plus a game of chance. Both the number for phone time and the symbols representing prizes were to be covered by a scratch-off coating. Emirat promised to supply Sabafon with 25 million high-security scratch-off cards. Emirat contracted with High Point Printing, which, in turn, engaged WS to do the work. Emirat paid High Point about $700,000. Three batches of the cards tested as adequately secure, but the testing company indicated that, under some circumstances, the digits and game symbols could be seen on some cards in a fourth batch. Emirat rejected the whole print run. High Point was out of business. Emirat sued WS, arguing that its settlement agreement with WS, after an initial run of cards was not correctly shipped, subjects WS to Emirat's contract with High Point. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for WS, noting that with a sufficiently high-tech approach, any security can be compromised, but no one will spend $1,000 to break the security of a card promising $50 worth of phone time. The contract is silent and does not promise any level of security, except through the possibility that usages of trade are read into every contract for scratch-off cards. Even if WS assumed High Point’s promises, neither promised any higher level of security than was provided. WS’s cards passed normal security tests repeatedly. View "Emirat AG v. WS Packaging Group, Inc." on Justia Law