Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
People v. Huber
Huber, a member of the Wiyot Band of Indians, owns and operates a tobacco smoke shop on the Table Bluff Rancheria, near Crescent City. Huber “sold huge quantities of noncompliant cigarettes and transported at least 14,727,290 packs to other stores within the state but beyond her reservation; she invoiced over $30 million for these sales. Her employees delivered the cigarettes using her vehicles on state roads. The Attorney General sued, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), citing as predicate “unlawful acts” violations the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code, 14951(a)). The trial court granted summary adjudication and entered a permanent injunction on all three claims. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Huber’s arguments that, under a federal statute granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked authority to proceed on any of the claims, and that, under the doctrine of Indian preemption, which limits the reach of state law to conduct by Indians on Indian reservations, all the statutes were preempted by paramount federal authority. To the extent enforcement occurs off-reservation, the Wiyot right to self-governance is not implicated. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law
Drulias v. 1st Century Bancshares, Inc.
1st Century was a Delaware corporation headquartered in Los Angeles; its shares were publicly traded on the NASDAQ. 1st Century and Midland announced merger plans. Midland was to acquire 1st Century for $11.22 in cash per share, a 36.3 percent premium over 1st Century’s closing share price on March 10, 2016. The merger was subject to approval by the holders of a majority of 1st Century’s outstanding shares. A shareholder vote on the proposed merger was scheduled. 1st Century’s certificate of incorporation authorized its directors “to adopt, alter, amend or repeal” the company’s bylaws, “subject to the power of the stockholders of the Corporation to alter or repeal any Bylaws whether adopted by them or otherwise.” 1st Century’s board of directors exercised that power when it approved the merger agreement, adding a forum selection bylaw providing that, absent the corporation’s written consent, Delaware is “the sole and exclusive forum for” intra-corporate disputes, including any action asserting a breach of fiduciary duty claim. The trial court stayed a putative shareholder class action, concluding that the bylaw’s forum selection clause was enforceable. The court of appeal affirmed, holding that a forum selection bylaw adopted by a Delaware corporation without stockholder consent is enforceable in California. View "Drulias v. 1st Century Bancshares, Inc." on Justia Law
Littlejohn v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
Littlejohn sought to sue Costco, the California Board of Equalization, and Abbott to recover sales tax on purchases of Abbott’s product Ensure. Littlejohn alleged that Ensure is properly categorized as a food; no sales tax was actually due on his purchases; Costco was under no obligation to pay and should not have paid sales tax on its sales of Ensure. The complaint alleged that during the period in question Ensure was classified as a food product exempt from sales tax, not a nutritional supplement. Littlejohn based his claim on a 1974 California Supreme Court decision, Javor. The trial court concluded that the judicially noticed documents in the record showed the Board had not resolved the question of whether Ensure was nontaxable during the relevant period.. The court held that the documents were entitled to deference, but did not have the same force of law as Board regulations and were not binding. The court of appeal affirmed, reasoning that the case does not involve allegations of unique circumstances showing the Board has concluded consumers are owed refunds for taxes paid on sales of Ensure. A Javor remedy should be limited to the unique circumstances where the plaintiff shows that the state has been unjustly enriched by the overpayment of sales tax, and the Board concurs that the circumstances warrant refunds. View "Littlejohn v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law
City of Fontana v. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
If a municipality imposes a sales tax, the State Board of Equalization (now the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration) has the authority to collect and then remit the tax back to the municipality under the Bradley-Burns Uniform Local Sales and Use Tax Law (Stats. 1955, ch. 1311; 7200 et seq.). The Board is authorized to determine where sales of personal property occur and to designate the municipality that will receive the local sales tax it collects. After an internal reorganization of an existing seller, the Board decided that local sales tax which had been remitted to Fontana and Lathrop, where the seller had warehouses, would be “reallocated” to Ontario, the site of the seller’s new marketing operation. The trial court set aside that decision. The court of appeal reversed, finding that the Board’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. The manner in which the Board determined where the taxable event occurred was well within its administrative expertise and its discretionary authority to make such a determination. Customers believed they were ordering goods from the Ontario facility, which became the retailer when it purchased goods for shipment to customers. View "City of Fontana v. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration" on Justia Law