Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Polar, a Finnish company based in Finland, owns U.S. patents directed to a method and apparatus for measuring heart rates during physical exercise. Polar sued, alleging infringement directly and indirectly, through the manufacture, use, sale, and importation of Suunto products. Suunto is a Finnish company with a principal place of business and manufacturing facilities in Finland. Suunto and ASWO (a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Utah) are owned by the same parent company. ASWO distributes Suunto’s products in the U.S. Suunto ships the accused products to addresses specified by ASWO. ASWO pays for shipping; title passes to ASWO at Suunto’s shipping dock in Finland. At least 94 accused products have been shipped from Finland to Delaware retailers using that standard ordering process. At least three Delaware retail stores sell the products. Suunto also owns, but ASWO maintains, a website, where customers can locate Delaware Suunto retailers or order Suunto products. At least eight online sales have been made in Delaware. The Federal Circuit vacated dismissal of Suunto for lack of personal jurisdiction. Suunto’s activities demonstrated its intent to serve the Delaware market specifically; the accused products have been sold in Delaware. Suunto had purposeful minimum contacts, so that Delaware’s “assertion of personal jurisdiction is reasonable and fair” and proper under the Delaware long-arm​ statute. View "Polar Electro Oy v. Suunto Oy" on Justia Law

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Darling’s Auto Mall is a franchisee of General Motors LLC (GM) and and authorized dealer. Darling’s filed two small claims actions in district court alleging that it had been underpaid by GM for certain warranty repairs in violation of the Business Practices Between Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Act (Dealers Act). The district court ruled in favor of Darling’s on both small claims. GM appealed and requested a jury trial de novo. The superior court granted GM’s request. After a jury trial, the superior court entered a judgment in favor of GM. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court’s decision to grant a jury trial de novo was not an appealable determination; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Darling’s motion for judgment as a matter of law; and (3) the trial court properly rejected Darling’s proposed jury instructions. View "Darling's Auto Mall v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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Corporate citizens of Delaware, Nebraska, and Illinois, sued Americold, a “real estate investment trust” organized under Maryland law, in a Kansas court. Americold removed the suit based on diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(1), 1441(b). The federal court accepted jurisdiction and ruled in Americold’s favor. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court lacked jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed. For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, Americold’s citizenship is based on the citizenship of its members, which include its shareholders. Historically, the relevant citizens for jurisdictional purposes in a suit involving a “mere legal entity” were that entity’s “members,” or the “real persons who come into court” in the entity’s name. Except for that limited exception of jurisdictional citizenship for corporations, diversity jurisdiction in a suit by or against the entity depends on the citizenship of all its members, including shareholders. The Court rejected an argument that anything called a “trust” possesses the citizenship of its trustees alone; Americold confused the traditional trust with the variety of unincorporated entities that many states have given the “trust” label. Under Maryland law, the real estate investment trust at issue is treated as a “separate legal entity” that can sue or be sued. View "Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from Ward Farms' purchase of Enerbase Cooperative Resource's tractor at a third-party auction sale. Michael Ward, a partner of Ward Farms, attended an auction sale, and bid on the tractor. Shortly after the sale, Ward Farms discovered the tractor required significant repairs. At Ward Farms' request, Enerbase inspected the tractor and estimated the repair costs as ranging from $19,550 to $31,430. Subsequently, Ward Farms sued Enerbase alleging fraud, misrepresentation, deceit, and breach of express and implied warranties. Ward Farms sought alternative remedies of rescission or damages. Ward Farms appealed the district court judgment denying its motion to amend its complaint and granting a summary judgment motion in favor of Enerbase. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Ward Farms' motion to amend, and the district court did not err in granting Enerbase's summary judgment motion because Ward Farms did not raise an issue of material fact regarding its claim. View "Ward Farms v. Enerbase Cooperative Resource" on Justia Law

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Iqbal bought a gasoline service station and contracted with S-Mart Petroleum for gasoline. Iqbal then hired Patel to conduct the business, ceding operational control to him. He chose Patel on the recommendation of Johnson, S-Mart’s president. Patel ran the business but did not pay for the gasoline, leading S-Mart to sue. The Indiana state court entered a judgment of more than $65,000 against Iqbal as guarantor. Under a settlement, Iqbal gave S-Mart a note, secured by a mortgage on the business premises. When he still did not pay, a state court entered a second judgment against him, and the property was sold in a foreclosure auction. Iqbal filed a federal suit, alleging that Patel and Johnson acted in cahoots to defraud him out of his business and seeking treble damages under 18 U.S.C. 1964, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court dismissed the complaint as barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because it challenged the state court’s judgments. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that Iqbal seeks damages for activity that (he alleges) predated the state litigation and caused injury independently of it. View "Iqbal v. Patel" 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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A Law Firm had an escrow account with a Bank and authorized an employee to sign checks on the account by herself. The employee began embezzling money from the Firm’s various escrow accounts by engaging in a scheme called “check-kiting,” which involved the employee writing and depositing checks between the Bank account and the Law Firm’s account at another bank. More than three years after the last activity on the Bank account the Law Firm sued the Bank, raising four claims, including violations of the Uniform Commercial Code and common-law causes of action. The court of appeals concluded that the claims were barred by the one-year repose period of Ky. Rev. Stat. 355.4-406. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding that the claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitations under Ky. Rev. Stat. 355.4-111. View "Mark D. Dean, P.S.C. v. Commonwealth Bank & Trust Co." on Justia Law