Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries
NOCO Co. v. OJ Commerce, LLC
NOCO manufactures and sells battery chargers and related products. Although it sells these products itself, NOCO also authorizes resellers if they sign an agreement. NOCO discovered that OJC was selling NOCO’s products on Amazon without authorization. NOCO complained to Amazon that OJC was selling NOCO’s products in violation of Amazon’s policy. Around the same time, another company (Emson) also complained to Amazon about OJC. Amazon asked OJC for proof that it was complying with its policy concerning intellectual property rights. OJC did not provide adequate documents. Amazon temporarily deactivated OJC’s account.OJC claimed that NOCO submitted false complaints, and sued for defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and violation of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of OJC’s claims. To succeed on those claims, OJC must establish that NOCO was the proximate cause of its injury. It cannot do this because three intervening causes broke the causal chain, relieving NOCO of any liability: Emson’s complaint, Amazon’s independent investigation and decision, and OJC’s opportunity to prevent the harm to itself. View "NOCO Co. v. OJ Commerce, LLC" on Justia Law
Lyles v. Santander Consumer USA Inc.
The Court of Appeals answered a certified question of law by holding that Md. Code Comm. Law (CL) 12-1018(b) requires a credit grantor that is found to have knowingly violated Credit Grantor Closed End Credit Provisions (CLEC), CL 12-1001 et seq., to forfeit three times the amount of interest, fees, and charged collected in violation of the subtitle.This case concerned a borrower who purchased a motor vehicle and financed it by closed end credit pursuant to an agreement governed by CLEC. The federal district court issued a certified question of law regarding the calculation of damages under CL 12-1018(b). The Court of Appeals held that, based upon prior caselaw regarding CLEC, a plain language analysis of CL 12-1018(b), and a review of the pertinent legislative history, CL 12-1018(b) requires a credit grantor who has knowingly violated the CLEC to forfeit three times the amount of interest, fees, and charges collected in violation of CL 12-1018(b). View "Lyles v. Santander Consumer USA Inc." on Justia Law
Thornhill Motor Car, Inc. v. Honorable Miki Thompson
The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by Thornhill Motor Care, Inc. to prevent the Circuit Court of Mingo County from enforcing its order denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss based on improper venue, holding that Thornhill established that it was entitled to the writ.Moore Chrysler, Inc. brought this action against Thornhill in Mingo County, alleging violations of W. Va. Code 17A-6A-1 to -18 and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Thornhill moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) on the basis of improper venue, asserting that the proper venue for this lawsuit was in Logan County pursuant to the general venue statute, W. Va. Code 56-1-1. The circuit court denied the motion, basing its ruling on a specific venue statute, W. Va. Code 17A-6A-12(3), which governs declaratory judgment actions brought by new motor vehicle dealers against manufacturers or distributors. Thornhill then sought the writ of prohibition at issue. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the circuit court committed clear legal error in applying section 17A-6A-12(3) rather than section 56-1-1. View "Thornhill Motor Car, Inc. v. Honorable Miki Thompson" on Justia Law
EdgengG (Private), Ltd. v. Fiberglass Fabricators, Inc.
In this commercial dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants based on Plaintiffs' failure to comply with orders to provide discovery, holding that there was no error.The parties in this case executed a contract providing that Defendants would sell finished fiberglass products manufactured by Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs later filed a complaint alleging that Defendants had failed to pay upon delivery of goods and that Defendants conspired to deprive Plaintiffs of profits and sales commission. The trial justice eventually granted Defendants' motion for entry of final judgment, referencing Plaintiffs' failure timely to respond to discovery requests and their failure to comply with superior court orders. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion when he dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint and entered judgment in favor of Defendants. View "EdgengG (Private), Ltd. v. Fiberglass Fabricators, Inc." on Justia Law
Brown v. Davenport
Davenport, convicted of first-degree murder following a jury trial where he sat shackled at a table with a “privacy screen,” argued that his conviction should be set aside because the Due Process Clause generally forbids such shackling absent “a special need.” On remand, the trial court conducted a hearing; jurors testified that the shackles had not affected their verdict. The federal district court found habeas relief unwarranted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The Sixth Circuit reversed without analyzing the case under AEDPA.The Supreme Court reversed. When a state court has ruled on the merits of a prisoner’s claim, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief without applying both the Supreme Court's "Brecht" test and AEDPA. Brecht held that the harmless-error rule for direct appeals was inappropriate for federal habeas review of final state-court judgments. A state prisoner must show that a state court's error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence” on the trial’s outcome, AEDPA instructs that if a state court has adjudicated the petitioner’s claim on the merits, a federal court “shall not” grant habeas relief “unless” the state court’s decision was “contrary to” or an “unreasonable application of” clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or based on an “unreasonable determination of the facts” presented in the state-court proceeding.The Court rejected Davenport’s argument that the AEDPA inquiry represents a logical subset of the Brecht test, so the Sixth Circuit necessarily found that he satisfied AEDPA. AEDPA asks whether every fair-minded jurist would agree that an error was prejudicial, Brecht asks only whether a federal habeas court itself harbors grave doubt about the verdict. The legal materials a court may consult when answering each test also differ. Even assuming that Davenport’s claim can survive Brecht, he cannot satisfy AEDPA. Nothing in Supreme Court precedent is inconsistent with the Michigan Court of Appeals’ reliance on post-trial testimony from actual jurors. View "Brown v. Davenport" on Justia Law
Carpenters’ Pension Fund of IL v. Michael Neidorff
Following the merger of Centene Corporation ("Centene") and Health Net, Inc. ("Health Net)," certain shareholders of Centene (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought five claims on behalf of the corporation against certain of its former and then-current directors and officers and nominal defendant Centene (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiffs did not make a pre-suit demand on Centene's Board of Directors (the Board). The district court dismissed their complaint with prejudice, finding that the plaintiffs failed to plead particularized facts demonstrating that a demand would have been futile.The Eighth Circuit found that the plaintiffs failed to plead facts showing the relevant documents contained a material misrepresentation. Further, the court did not consider the second or third claims because the plaintiffs made no argument contesting the district court's finding that a majority of the Board faces a substantial likelihood of liability. Next, the circuit court held that the plaintiffs' futility argument was patently insufficient. Finally, the circuit court found that at least half of the Board does not face a substantial likelihood of liability under the plaintiffs' insider trading claim. As such, the circuit court found the same as to plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim pertaining to alleged insider trading. The circuit court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Carpenters' Pension Fund of IL v. Michael Neidorff" on Justia Law
Cadence Bank, N.A. v. Elizondo
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Roy Elizondo and dismissing this action brought by Cadence Bank, N.A. for breach of a deposit agreement, breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and common-law torts, holding that the lower courts erred.In response to a stranger's email for legal assistance, Elizondo, an attorney, deposited a cashier's check in his bank account then wired most of the funds to an overseas account. The check was dishonored, and the bank charged the transfer back to Elizondo, as allowed by the UCC and the parties' deposit agreement. When Elizondo refused to pay the overdrawn funds Cadence brought this action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Elizondo, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the wire-transfer form failed to create the contractual duty urged by Elizondo. View "Cadence Bank, N.A. v. Elizondo" on Justia Law
Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that a consequential-damages exclusion is enforceable in a contract for the sale of goods. The court concluded that the contract is clear that Viracon is not liable for consequential damages and found Far East's arguments to the contrary unpersuasive. In this case, the consequential-damages exclusion provision is not unconscionable under Minn. Stat. Sec. 336.2-719(3), and the alleged failure of the contract’s exclusive remedy has no effect on the enforceability of the consequential-damages exclusion. To the extent Far East’s indemnity claim survives the consequential-damages exclusion, it fails because there is no express contract obligating Viracon to reimburse it for the liability of the character involved. Finally, the court denied leave to amend. View "Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc." on Justia Law
Stahl v. Stitt
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the "midnight deadline" rule set forth in section 4-302 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as adopted by Va. Code 8.4-302 and W. Va. Code 46-4-302, holding that there was no error.In her second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that MCNB Bank and Trust Company (MCNB) violated the midnight deadline rule adopted from the UCC and, therefore, MCNB was strictly liable for the payment of a check in the amount of $245,271.25. The circuit court granted summary judgment for MCNB, concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claim because she did not have any right to rely on the prompt payment of the check at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it granted MCNB’s motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff's alleged lack of standing to enforce the midnight deadline rule. View "Stahl v. Stitt" on Justia Law
Melendez v. Westlake Services, Inc.
Melendez purchased a used 2015 Toyota from Southgate under a retail installment sales contract. Southgate assigned the contract to Westlake. Weeks later, Melendez sent a notice alleging Southgate violated the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and demanded rescission, restitution, and an injunction. Melendez later sued Southgate and Westlake, alleging violations of the CLRA, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Civil Code 1632 (requiring translation of contracts negotiated primarily in Spanish), the unfair competition law, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Westlake assigned the contract back to Southgate. Default was entered against Southgate. Westlake agreed to pay $6,204.68 ($2,500 down payment and $3,704.68 Melendez paid in monthly payments). Melendez would have no further obligations under the contract.The parties agreed Melendez could seek attorney fees, costs, expenses, and prejudgment interest. Westlake was entitled to assert all available defenses, “including the defense that no fees at all should be awarded against it as a Holder” The FTC’s “holder rule” makes the holder of a consumer credit contract subject to all claims the debtor could assert against the seller of the goods or services but caps the debtor’s recovery from the holder to the amount paid by the debtor under the contract. The trial court awarded attorney fees ($115,987.50), prejudgment interest ($2,956.62), and costs ($14,295.63) jointly and severally against Westlake, Southgate, and other defendants. The court of appeal affirmed. The limitation does not preclude the recovery of attorney fees, costs, nonstatutory costs, or prejudgment interest. View "Melendez v. Westlake Services, Inc." on Justia Law