Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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 Supreme Court of North Carolina was required to decide whether a trial court can refuse to hear oral testimony during a summary judgment hearing on the mistaken belief that the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure prohibit the receipt of such testimony. The plaintiff, a corporation, had sued the defendants for breach of a commercial lease, and the defendants counterclaimed for fraud. During the summary judgment hearing, the trial court declined a request by the defendants to introduce live testimony, asserting that it was not permitted during a summary judgment hearing. The defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's summary judgment order and remanded the case, leading to this appeal.The Supreme Court of North Carolina held that a trial court errs if it fails to exercise its discretion under the misapprehension that it has no such discretion, referring to Rule 43(e) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure that allows for the introduction of live oral testimony during a summary judgment hearing at the discretion of the trial court. The court found that the trial court was mistaken in its belief that it could not allow oral testimony, and this error warranted vacatur and remand for reconsideration. The Supreme Court thereby modified and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals to vacate the trial court's summary judgment order and remand the case. View "D.V. Shah Corp. v. VroomBrands, LLC" on Justia Law

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Venequip, a Venezuelan heavy-equipment supplier, sold and serviced products made by Illinois-based Caterpillar. Venequip’s dealership was governed by sales and service agreements with CAT Sàrl, Caterpillar’s Swiss subsidiary. In 2019 CAT Sàrl terminated the dealership. The contracts contain clauses that direct all disputes to Swiss courts for resolution under Swiss law. In 2021 Venequip brought contract claims against CAT Sàrl in Geneva, Switzerland. Venequip filed applications across the United States seeking discovery from Caterpillar and its employees, dealers, and customers under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a), which authorizes (but does not require) district courts to order any person who resides or is found in the district to give testimony or produce documents “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” Venequip’s Northern District of Illinois application sought wide-ranging discovery from Caterpillar.Ruling on Venequip’s application, the district judge addressed four factors identified by the Supreme Court (Intel) that generally concern the applicant’s need for discovery, the intrusiveness of the request, and comity considerations, and added the parties’ contractual choice of forum and law and Caterpillar’s agreement to provide discovery in the Swiss court, then denied the application. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The appeal was not mooted by intervening developments in the Swiss court. The judge appropriately weighed the Intel factors and other permissible considerations. View "Venequip, S.A. v. Caterpillar Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court resolved a conflict between Arizona Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure (ARCAP) 7(a)(4)(A), which instructs courts to include "damages, costs, attorney's fees, and prejudgment interest" when setting the amount of a supersedeas bond, and Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2108(A)(1), which instructs courts only to include damages, in favor of the rule.The superior court entered judgment against Robert Wallace for wrongfully filing a UCC-1 lien and awarded statutory damages plus attorney fees and costs. Wallace appealed, asking the court to set a supersedeas bond at $0 under section 12-2108(A)(1). The court, however, calculated the bond under ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A), including the statutory damages, attorney fees, and costs. Wallace filed a petition for special action in the Supreme Court challenging the rule's validity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A) and section 12-2108(A)(1) are in direct conflict; and (2) section 12-2108(A)(1) regulates a procedural area of law within the purview of the judicial branch and therefore must yield where it conflicts with ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A). View "Wallace v. Honorable Smith" on Justia Law

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Each of the four plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint in state court, alleging violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), 15 U.S.C. 2301, claiming that the defendants either concealed written warranties prior to sale or provided warranties that prohibit the use of third-party repair services or parts in violation of MMWA. The defendants removed the actions to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2).The plaintiffs moved to remand to state court. The district court held that remand was appropriate because MMWA’s jurisdictional requirements were not satisfied and neither CAFA nor traditional diversity jurisdiction can be used to circumvent those jurisdictional requirements. The Third Circuit affirmed.MMWA claims can only be brought in federal court if section 2310(d)(3)’s requirements are satisfied, including that a class action name at least 100 plaintiffs; here, each complaint names only one plaintiff. MMWA’s stringent jurisdictional requirements are irreconcilable with CAFA. Allowing CAFA to govern MMWA class claims would undercut the MMWA’s requirement and allow an MMWA class action to proceed in contravention of the MMWA. View "Rowland v. Bissell Homecare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims against several parties after a family-help ranch was sold to a corporate entity against his knowledge.In 1961, Plaintiff’s father and grandfather formed the Healy Ranch Partnership (“HRP”). In 1986, Plaintiff’s grandmother transferred her partnership interest to Plaintiff in exchange for him assuming the partnership’s debt and making certain payments to her. In 1994, Plaintiff’s mother formed a South Dakota corporation, Healy Ranch, Inc. (“HRI”). She filed articles of incorporation authorizing HRI to issue 1,000,000 shares of common stock with a par value of one dollar per share. The articles of incorporation stated that the “corporation will not commence business until consideration of the value of at least Five Thousand Dollars has been received for the issuance of shares.” That same year, Plaintiff’s mother and her lawyer caused HRI to issue nearly 300,000 shares without consideration. In 1995, Plaintiff’s mother conveyed all of the partnership’s real-property interest in the ranch to HRI, including both her 50 percent share as well as Plaintiff’s 50 percent share. In 2000, Plaintiff’s mother sold one-third of her shares of HRI to Plaintiff and one-third to each of his two brothers. In Healy I, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s actions.Plaintiff then filed this RICO action; which the court dismissed because it ran afoul of res judicata and the four-year statute of limitations for RICO claims. View "Bret Healy v. Albert Fox" on Justia Law

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Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that federal bankruptcy law did not preempt Plaintiff's state law claims asserted against non-debtor third parties for tortious interference with a contract.Plaintiff loaned $147,250,000 to nonparties "Mezz Borrower" and "Mortgage Borrower" (collectively, Borrowers). Borrowers later defaulted, and Plaintiff sought to conduct a foreclosure sale of Mezz Borrower's 100 percent membership interest in Mortgage Borrower pursuant to the pledge and security agreement. Mezz Borrower and Mortgage Borrower subsequently filed separate voluntary petitions for chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court. Plaintiff then commenced this action in state court alleging that Defendants had tortiously interfered with the loan agreements between Plaintiff and the nonparty borrowers. Defendants - various affiliated persons and entities - moved for summary judgment on the ground that the action was preempted by the Bankruptcy Code. Supreme Court denied the motion, holding that the action was not preempted because it did not involve the bankruptcy. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that Plaintiff's claims were preempted by federal law because damages arose only because of the bankruptcy filings. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendants failed to meet their burden of establishing that federal bankruptcy law preempted Plaintiff's tortious interference claims. View "Sutton 58 Associates LLC v. Pilevsky" on Justia Law