Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

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This case involves Commerzbank AG, a German bank, and U.S. Bank, N.A., an American bank. Commerzbank sued U.S. Bank, alleging that it had failed to fulfill its duties as a trustee for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that Commerzbank had purchased. The case revolved around three main issues: whether Commerzbank could bring claims related to trusts with "No Action Clauses"; whether Commerzbank's claims related to certificates held through German entities were timely; and whether Commerzbank could bring claims related to certificates it had sold to third parties.The district court had previously dismissed Commerzbank's claims related to trusts with No Action Clauses, granted judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on the timeliness of Commerzbank's claims related to the German certificates, and denied Commerzbank's claims related to the sold certificates. Commerzbank appealed these decisions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions on the timeliness of the German certificate claims and the denial of the sold certificate claims. However, it vacated the district court's dismissal of Commerzbank's claims related to trusts with No Action Clauses and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that Commerzbank's failure to make pre-suit demands on parties other than trustees could be excused in certain circumstances where these parties are sufficiently conflicted. View "Commerzbank AG v. U.S. Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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A motor vehicle manufacturer, General Motors LLC (GM), sought to terminate its franchise agreement with Mall Chevrolet, Inc., a successful car dealership in New Jersey, after discovering that the dealership had submitted false warranty claims for vehicle repairs. GM also intended to recoup the amounts it paid in disputed warranty claims through a chargeback process. In response, Mall Chevrolet sued GM under the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act to prevent the termination of the franchise agreement and the chargebacks. However, the dealership's claims did not survive summary judgment.The District Court found that there was no genuine dispute of material fact – the dealership did submit false claims for warranty repairs – and GM was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on each of the appealed claims. The dealership then appealed the District Court’s summary-judgment rulings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court. The court found that GM had good cause to terminate the franchise agreement because Mall Chevrolet had materially breached the contract by submitting false claims for warranty work. The court also found that the dealership's remaining statutory claims were barred by the defense provided in the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act, which allows a franchisor to avoid liability for any claim under the Act if the franchisee has not substantially complied with the franchise agreement. View "Mall Chevrolet Inc v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Private Jet Services Group, LLC (PJS), a private aircraft booking agent, and Tauck, Inc., a provider of domestic and international guided tours. The parties had entered into an "Air Charter Services Blanket Purchase Agreement" (BPA) in January 2018, which established the terms under which Tauck would book and pay for air transportation for the New Zealand portion of its Australia and New Zealand tours. In May 2018, they executed a Statement of Work (SOW) that required Tauck to guarantee a minimum of fifty tours per year and to pay PJS an agreed-upon sum for each "missed" tour. The SOW also included a force majeure clause that protected PJS from delays, losses, or damages caused in whole or in part by force majeure events, including epidemics and acts of civil or military authority.The dispute arose when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Tauck from conducting tours in New Zealand. After Tauck cancelled its remaining 2020 tours, PJS sued Tauck in the New Hampshire federal court alleging a breach of contract. Tauck responded by invoking the doctrines of impossibility and frustration of purpose to excuse performance of its obligations under the contracts. Both parties moved for summary judgment on the count relating to the 2020 tour season, which the district court denied without prejudice. The district court then certified a question to the Supreme Court of New Hampshire regarding the interpretation of the force majeure clause and its impact on the common law defenses of impossibility, impracticability, and frustration of commercial purpose.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that the common law contract defenses of impossibility, impracticability, and frustration of commercial purpose are so fundamentally related to contract formation and purpose that they remain viable unless expressly waived. Therefore, a force majeure clause that protects only one party to a contract should not be deemed, in and of itself, a relinquishment of the other party’s right to interpose those common law defenses. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "Private Jet Services Group, LLC v. Tauck, Inc." on Justia Law

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FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. (FXG) filed a lawsuit against Route Consultant, Inc., alleging that the latter company had made nine false or misleading statements about FXG's business practices. FXG contended that these statements were intended to foster discontent between FXG and its contractors, thereby damaging FXG and benefiting Route Consultant. The suit was brought under both the Lanham Act's false advertising provision and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act's statutory disparagement provision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit confirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the case. The court found that FXG had failed to plausibly allege that Route Consultant made a single false or misleading statement. The court emphasized that only statements of fact--not opinions, puffery, or rhetorical hyperbole--are actionable under the false advertising provision of the Lanham Act. Moreover, a plaintiff must plead and prove the literal falsity of the defendant's statement or demonstrate that the statement is misleading. FXG's complaint did not meet these standards.The court also held that FXG's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act failed for the same reasons as its Lanham Act claim. Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of FXG's lawsuit against Route Consultant. View "FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. v. Route Consultant, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, plaintiffs Medallion Film LLC and Pelican Point Capital Partners entered into a consulting fee agreement with Clarius Capital Group, managed by William Sadleir. The agreement stipulated that Medallion Film and Pelican Point would assist Clarius in obtaining funding for film projects, and Clarius would pay them a portion of any funding obtained. However, it is alleged that Sadleir dissolved Clarius and its affiliate and subsidiary entities in 2015 and formed a new set of corporate entities under the name Aviron with the assistance of the law firm Loeb & Loeb.The plaintiffs allege that Sadleir controlled both the Clarius and Aviron entities and transferred Clarius’s assets to the Aviron entities. Aviron later obtained a loan for its film projects from BlackRock, which Medallion Film and Pelican Point claim they were entitled to a portion of under their agreement with Clarius. However, Sadleir denied any affiliation between Aviron and Clarius and said he was solely an employee of Aviron.The plaintiffs sued Loeb & Loeb in December 2021, alleging causes of action for fraudulent misrepresentation, deceit by concealment, negligent misrepresentation, aiding and abetting fraud, and violating California Business and Professions Code section 17200. Loeb & Loeb filed a special motion to strike the first amended complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation under section 425.16. The trial court granted the special motion to strike.However, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight vacated the judgment, reversed the order granting the special motion to strike, and remanded with directions to enter a new order denying the motion. View "Medallion Film LLC v. Loeb & Loeb LLP" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was tasked with evaluating a previous decision by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) regarding cost allocation between the United States Postal Service's (USPS) market-dominant and competitive products. United Parcel Service (UPS), a competitor of the USPS, challenged the PRC's formula for allocating institutional costs.The USPS offers both market-dominant products, like standard mail (where it holds a near-monopoly), and competitive products, like package delivery (where it competes with private companies like UPS). The PRC's task is to ensure that the USPS's competitive products cover an "appropriate share" of institutional costs. In 2020, the court had remanded the PRC's Order that adopted a formula for this "appropriate share", and asked the PRC to better explain its reasoning.On remand, the PRC revised its analysis but maintained the same formula. The court of appeals concluded that the PRC had adequately addressed the previous issues identified and reasonably exercised its statutory discretion in adopting the formula. Consequently, UPS's petition for review was denied.The court found that the PRC's interpretation of the distinction between costs attributable to competitive products and costs uniquely or disproportionately associated with competitive products was reasonable. It also found the PRC's decision to not include attributable costs directly in the appropriate share to be reasonable, to avoid double-counting. The court rejected UPS's claim that the PRC was required to allocate all of the USPS's institutional costs between market-dominant and competitive products, and it also found that the PRC had adequately considered competitive products' market conditions. Lastly, the court upheld the PRC's proposed formula for setting the appropriate share. View "United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Appellate District Division One of the California Court of Appeal affirmed, with a minor modification, a lower court's decision that Ashford University, LLC and Zovio, Inc. violated California's unfair competition law and false advertising law. Over a decade, the defendants made false and misleading statements to prospective students, committing 1,243,099 violations. The trial court imposed a penalty of $22,375,782, which the defendants challenged as excessive. The appeal court agreed with the defendants that the lower court inadvertently included violations outside the false advertising law's statute of limitations in the penalty calculation. The court reduced the penalty by $933,453. However, the court rejected the defendants' other arguments, including that the penalty should be further reduced because it did not bear a reasonable relationship to the harm proven at trial, violated extraterritoriality principles, and was excessive given the defendants' financial status. The court found the penalty was reasonably related to the harm caused, the defendants could pay the penalty, and the defendants' misconduct emanated from California, so principles of extraterritoriality were not violated. View "People v. Ashford University, LLC" on Justia Law

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The dispute arose from an agreement between Columbia Plaza Associates (CPA) and Northeastern University regarding the development of a parcel of land in Boston. The contract stipulated that the developer for each phase of the project would be Northeastern or an affiliated entity, which could include CPA. The contract also specified that the developer of the garage parcel would be a joint venture between Northeastern and CPA.CPA claimed that Northeastern violated the agreement when it sought to develop a subparcel unilaterally and repudiated CPA's rights to that subparcel. CPA also argued that Northeastern's communication with a governmental agency amounted to a deceptive business practice.The court held that the agreement did not grant CPA development rights in any of the subparcels except for the garage parcel. The court also found no proof of an enforceable promise by Northeastern to build a hotel with CPA on the disputed subparcel. The court thus ruled in favor of Northeastern on all counts, including CPA's claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional interference with advantageous economic relations, unjust enrichment, commercial fraud, unfair or deceptive business practices, and requests for declaratory and injunctive relief.The court further held that Northeastern was entitled to attorney's fees under the anti-SLAPP statute because it successfully dismissed CPA's claim of commercial fraud, which was based solely on Northeastern's petitioning activity. The court did not find CPA's claim to be a SLAPP suit. View "Columbia Plaza Associates v. Northeastern University" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In a dispute between SmartSky Networks, LLC and DAG Wireless, Ltd., DAG Wireless USA, LLC, Laslo Gross, Susan Gross, Wireless Systems Solutions, LLC, and David D. Gross over alleged breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, and deceptive trade practices, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the district court did not have the jurisdiction to enforce an arbitration award. Initially, the case was stayed by the district court pending arbitration. The arbitration tribunal found in favor of SmartSky and issued an award, which SmartSky sought to enforce in district court. The defendants-appellants argued that, based on the Supreme Court decision in Badgerow v. Walters, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the arbitration award. The Fourth Circuit agreed, noting that a court must have a basis for subject matter jurisdiction independent from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and apparent on the face of the application to enforce or vacate an arbitration award. The court concluded that the district court did not have an independent basis of subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the arbitration award. As such, the court reversed and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Smartsky Networks, LLC v. DAG Wireless, LTD." on Justia Law