Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Banking
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In 2004, Baker Lofts purchased an abandoned building for renovation. Loans of more than $5 million from Huntington were secured by two mortgages on the building and by personal property, including a tax-increment-financing agreement, rental income, and Baker’s liquor license. Baker defaulted in 2011. Huntington assigned the 2005 mortgage to its subsidiary, Fourteen, which foreclosed by public auction. The Notice stated that “[t]he balance owing on the Mortgage is $5,254,435.04,” but did not mention the senior 2004 mortgage, which Huntington retained. Fourteen, the only bidder, purchased the property for $1,856,250. Huntington released the 2004 mortgage. Fourteen sold the property for $2,355,000. Huntington thought that Baker still owed $3.5 million and invoked its security interests in the remaining collateral. At a public sale, Huntington bought the rights to Baker's tax-increment-financing agreement for $1,107,000; began collecting rents; and asserted its security interest in the liquor license, which Baker had sold before it declared bankruptcy. Assignees of Baker's legal claims sought a declaratory judgment that the sale of the building extinguished all of Baker’s debt. They also raised conversion and tortious interference claims and a claim under Michigan’s secured transactions statute. The Sixth CIrcuit affirmed Huntington's judgment. The district court correctly concluded that Baker’s debt exceeded the value of the foreclosed building and that excess permitted Huntington to take possession of the other property securing its loans. View "DAGS II, LLC v. Huntington National Bank" on Justia Law

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McNeil opened a business checking account with Defendant. A “Master Services Agreement,” stated: [W]e have available certain products designed to discover or prevent unauthorized transactions, …. You agree that if your account is eligible for those products and you choose not to avail yourself of them, then we will have no liability for any transaction that occurs on your account that those products were designed to discover or prevent. McNeil was not given a signed copy of the Agreement, nor was he advised of its details. McNeil ordered hologram checks from a third party to avoid fraudulent activity. McNeil later noticed unauthorized checks totaling $3,973.96. The checks did not contain the hologram and their numbers were duplicative of checks that Defendant had properly paid. Defendant refused to reimburse McNeil, stating that “reasonable care was not used in declining to use our ... services, which substantially contributed to the making of the forged item(s).” Government agencies indicated that they would not intervene in a private dispute involving the interpretation of a contract. Plaintiff filed a putative class action, citing Uniform Commercial Code 4-401 and 4-103(a), The district court dismissed, holding that the Agreement did not violate the UCC and shifted liability to Plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiff stated a plausible claim that the provision unreasonably disclaims all liability under these circumstances; the UCC forbids a bank from disclaiming all of its liability to exercise ordinary care and good faith. View "Majestic Building Maintenance, Inc. v. Huntington Bancshares, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, the Harrises bought tens of thousands of shares in Bancorp through a TD Ameritrade account. Six years later, the Harrises sought to hold some of their Bancorp stock in another form, registered in their name and reflected in a physical copy of a certificate signifying their ownership. TD Ameritrade refused to convert the Harrises’ form of ownership, stating that all Bancorp stock was in a “global lock,” prohibiting activity in the stock, including changing the Harrises’ form of ownership. The lock was created because someone had fraudulently created hundreds of millions of invalid shares of Bancorp stock. The Harrises sued, alleging that TD Ameritrade had violated SEC Rule 15c3-3 and Nebraska’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal.. Neither the SEC Rule nor Nebraska’s Commercial Code creates a private right of action to vindicate the alleged problem. View "Harris v. TD Ameritrade, Inc." on Justia Law

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Grand Rios purchased a Brooklyn Park, Minnesota hotel and waterpark, assuming $4.61 million of the debt owed to Northeast Bank by the original owner, and purchased insurance from Hanover Insurance. The roof was damaged by a snowstorm. Sill was hired to handle the claim. Hanover issued checks totaling $350,000 made jointly payable to Grand Rios, Northeast, and Sill. Without Northeast’s endorsement, knowledge, or consent, Wells Fargo Bank paid the full amount of the checks to Grand Rios. Months later, Northeast and Grand Rios entered into a Settlement Agreement under which Grand Rios agreed to a voluntary foreclosure, assigned all insurance proceeds to Northeast, paid $50,000 to Northeast, and allowed a state court to appoint a receiver for the hotel and waterpark. Hanover made additional insurance payments of approximately $1.2 million. Ultimately Northeast received approximately $200,000 more than the debt Grand Rios owed and sold the property to CarMax. Northeast sued Hanover and Wells Fargo. The district court dismissed Hanover and granted summary judgment in favor of Northeast against Wells Fargo.. The Eighth Circuit reversed. While the payment constituted conversion under the UCC, Minn. Stat. 336.3-420, Northeast has not suffered any damages because it was subsequently paid the full amount of the debt for which the checks were security. View "Northeast Bank v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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This case was the companion interlocutory appeal with facts that mirrored Iowa Dep’t of Human Servs. v. DeWitt Bank and Trust Co., decided on the day of this opinion. As in DeWitt Bank, the Iowa Department of Human Services filed an application for relief against defendant healthcare providers under Iowa Code 249A.44. The district court appointed a receiver. Bank Iowa, a lender that held perfected security interests in Defendants’ property, intervened and challenged the receiver’s applications for fees and expenses. The district court concluded that receivership expenses should be paid out of property in which the Bank had prior lien interests. The Supreme Court reversed based on the reasoning set forth in DeWitt Bank, holding that Iowa follows the common law rule that a receiver may be charged against a third party’s security interest only to the extent the secured creditor has received a benefit from the receivership or the secured creditor has consented to the receivership. Remanded. View "Iowa Dep’t of Human Servs. v. Morse Healthcare Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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DeWitt Bank & Trust Company (Bank) held perfected security interests on real and personal property of Community Care, Inc. (CCI). When the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) determined that CCI had committed Medicaid fraud, DHS filed an application for injunctive relief under Iowa Code 249A.44. The district court enjoined CCI from transferring property or taking action inconsistent with DHS’s right to recover overpayments of medical assistance from CCI. CCI subsequently ceased operations, and the district court appointed a receiver for CCI. The Bank sought clarification that the receiver’s fees and expenses would not be paid out of CCI assets in which the Bank had a prior perfected security lien. The district court denied substantive relief, concluding that Iowa law requires the expenses of the receiver to be paid before secured creditors. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Iowa law does not authorize a receiver to be paid out of assets that are subject to a prior perfected line; and (2) rather, Iowa follows the common law rule that the costs of a receiver may be charged against a third party’s security interest only to the extent the secured creditor has received a benefit from the receivership or the secured creditor has consented to the receivership. View "Iowa Dep’t of Human Servs. v. Cmty. Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kopko ran SFS in Michigan, providing financial transaction processing and electronic funds transfers to companies engaged in e-commerce, processing those transactions through its Fifth Third account, Fifth Third discovered that FBD was processing illegal gambling funds through that account and notified SFS that it was closing SFS’s account immediately. Losing this account crippled SFS’s ability to do business. SFS went bankrupt. Kopko telephoned FBD and spoke to Bastable, FBD’s vice-president for e-commerce. According to Kopko, Bastable said FBD did not have an account in SFS’s name. Months later SFS received a grand jury subpoena related to a federal investigation of the gambling transactions done in SFS’s name. When Kopko called Bastable again to discuss the subpoena, Bastable admitted that FBD had an account in SFS’s name and that the board of directors was aware of this account. In 2012, SFS sued FBD, Bastable, and FBD’s individual directors in federal court for negligence and fraud against. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that: answering the phone calls did not establish personal jurisdiction over individual defendants; FBD owed no duty of care to SFS because SFS was not a customer; and SFS failed to adequately plead a claim of fraud. View "SFS Check, LLC v. First Bank of De." on Justia Law

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In 2004, Paint Rock Turn, LLC purchased a sod farm and related farm equipment. To partially finance the purchase, Paint Rock borrowed $1,706,250 from First Jackson Bank. The loan was secured by a mortgage on the sod farm and a security interest in the equipment used on the farm. By February 2009, reflecting in part a drop in demand for sod caused by the collapsing market for new homes, Paint Rock had defaulted on the loan. In early 2009, Paint Rock filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. The filing of the petition operated as an automatic stay and precluded First Jackson from foreclosing on the sod farm or retaking the equipment. The bankruptcy petition was dismissed later that year, and a few months later, First Jackson moved forward with its intent to foreclose by publishing the first of three notices of a foreclosure sale on the Paint Rock property. On the morning of the scheduled sale, Paint Rock filed a second bankruptcy petition, which stayed the sale. This second petition was dismissed a month later for failure to file the proper schedules and statements. First Jackson published another notice that the foreclosure sale was rescheduled for December 30, 2009. December 26, Paint Rock filed a third bankruptcy petition. Four days later, the bankruptcy court lifted the automatic stay, expressly finding that Paint Rock misused the bankruptcy process to "hinder and delay First Jackson's efforts to foreclose its mortgage and security agreement." First Jackson was the high bidder at the sale, purchased the property, and sent Paint Rock a letter demanding possession of the sod farm. In early 2010, First Jackson filed an ejectment action. The same day, Paint Rock demanded access to the farm to recover "emblements in the form of sod which is being grown on the real property recently foreclosed upon ...." Paint Rock also requested the return of its equipment. First Jackson denied Paint Rock's request. Paint Rock, relying on a section of the Alabama Code that permits a tenant at will to harvest its crop, counterclaimed for damages for harm suffered as the result of being unable to harvest the sod. Paint Rock also sought damages for conversion of "plats of sod" contained on the sod farm. First Jackson sold the sod farm to Mrs. Goodson, subject to any claim Paint Rock may have to the emblements growing on the property. Paint Rock filed a joint third-party complaint against First Jackson and Mr. and Mrs. Goodson, alleging conversion and detinue, as well as the emblements claim. After the trial court denied motions for a summary judgment filed by First Jackson and the Goodsons, the case proceeded to trial. At the close of Paint Rock and Jones's case, the trial court granted a motion for a JML filed by First Jackson and the Goodsons on Paint Rock's counterclaim for emblements on the ground that Paint Rock was not an at-will tenant. After Paint Rock withdrew its detinue claims and the trial court granted a JML on the wantonness claims, leaving only the conversion and negligence claims. The jury awarded Paint Rock damages against First Jackson for conversion of a sod cutter and cut sod that had been loaded on a tractor-trailer when First Jackson took possession of the property. The jury also awarded Paint Rock damages against the Goodsons for conversion of business property and equipment. Paint Rock appealed the JML in favor of the defendants on the emblements claim; First Jackson cross-appealed the judgment awarding Paint Rock damages for conversion of the cut sod. The Supreme Court affirmed with regard to Paint Rock's emblements claim, but reversed on the conversion of the cut sod claim. View "Paint Rock Turf, LLC v. First Jackson Bank et al. " on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a judgment entered after a demurrer by three banks to plaintiff’s second amended complaint was sustained without leave to amend. The three banks were US Metro Bank, Wilshire State Bank, and Pacific City Bank. An employee of a corporation with responsibility to gather incoming checks made payable to the corporation and deposit those checks into the corporation’s bank account (in this case, the corporation’s accounting manager) stole some of the incoming checks and took them to a check cashing service where she forged the signature of one of the officers of the corporation and received hard cash in return. After discovery of the thefts, the corporation fired the accounting manager and tried to recoup at least some of its losses. In this case, the corporation’s recoupment effort included suing its own bank, the three check cashing services where the employee took the checks, and the three banks which received those checks from the check cashing services for deposit into those companies’ own accounts. The legal issue presented in this appeal was one of first impression in California: Does the interposition of the check cashing services between (a) the employee who stole the checks and (b) the three banks who took the checks from three check cashing companies and credited the accounts of those check cashing companies, relieve the banks of all duty of care under section 3405 of California’s Commercial Code? The Court of Appeal concluded the answer was no: the three banks were the first banks to process the checks through the banking system, and, as “first banks,” they had a duty of care in the processing of those checks “‘to make certain all endorsements [were] valid; banks subsequently taking the paper have a right to rely on the forwarding bank.’” Check cashing companies are not banks, and should not be treated as banks for purposes of California’s Uniform Commercial Code. View "HH Computer Systems v. Pacific City Bank" on Justia Law

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Between 2009 and 2012, Sunshine and Purdy, a Kentucky dairy farmer, entered into “Dairy Cow Leases.” Purdy received 435 cows to milk, and, in exchange, paid monthly rent to Sunshine. Purdy’s business faltered in 2012, and he sought bankruptcy protection. Sunshine moved to retake possession of the cattle. Citizens First Bank had a perfected purchase money security interest in Purdy’s equipment, farm products, and livestock, and claimed that its perfected security interest gave Citizens First priority over Sunshine with regard to the cattle. Citizens argued that the “leases” were disguised security agreements, that Purdy actually owned the cattle, and that the subsequently-acquired livestock were covered by the bank’s security interest. The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of Citizens, finding that the leases were per se security agreements. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that the terms of the agreements expressly preserve Sunshine’s ability to recover the cattle. Whether the parties strictly adhered to the terms of these leases is irrelevant to determining whether the agreements were true leases or disguised security agreements. Neither the bankruptcy court nor the parties sufficiently explained the legal import of Purdy’s culling practices or put forward any evidence that the parties altered the terms of the leases making them anything but leases. View "In re: Purdy" on Justia Law