Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Caudill Seed & Warehouse Co. Inc. v. Jarrow Formulas, Inc.
Caudill's subsidiary develops nutritional supplements. Jarrow, a dietary-supplement company, solicited Ashurst, Caudill’s Director of Research, who had extensively researched the development of broccoli-seed derivatives at issue. Ashurst had signed Non-Disclosure, Non-Competition, and Secrecy Agreements, and annually signed Caudill’s employee handbook, which barred him from disclosing Caudill’s trade secrets or other confidential information. In April 2011, Ashurst, still a Caudill employee, emailed Jarrow confidential Caudill documents. Days later, Jarrow requested a file of the pertinent data. Ashurst sent a physical disc. On May 1, Ashurst began to work for Jarrow. Ashurst then submitted his resignation to Caudill. Ashurst’s Agreement with Jarrow indicated that Jarrow hired him to mimic his work for Caudill, Ashurst proposed that Jarrow adopt the process that Caudill used to manufacture the raw materials for its BroccoMax supplement. Jarrow brought an activated broccoli product into commercial production four months after hiring Ashurst. From 2012-2019, Jarrow earned $7.5 million in sales of their BroccoMax-type product.In a suit under the Kentucky Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the Sixth Circuit affirmed a judgment of $2,427,605 in damages awarded by the jury, $1,000,000 in exemplary damages, $3,254,303.50 in attorney fees, and $69,871.82 in costs against Jarrow. The court rejected arguments that Caudill failed to define one of its Trade Secrets adequately, failed to show that Jarrow acquired that Trade Secret; and did not introduce sufficient evidence attributing its damages to that misappropriation, as well as challenges to the awards of damages. View "Caudill Seed & Warehouse Co. Inc. v. Jarrow Formulas, Inc." on Justia Law
United Food & Commercial Workers v. Kroger Co.
KLPI operates Kroger grocery stores throughout Tennessee. KLPI has a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Union, which represents all retail employees in different retail-store configurations. The Union immediately represents the employees in any new KLPI store. In 2020, Kroger’s “Supply Chain Division” opened the Knoxville Local Fulfillment Center. After the warehouse opened, the Union filed a grievance, claiming that the Union represented employees at that facility—which the Union called the “Knoxville eCommerce Store.” The Union described how warehouse employees fill orders placed by Walgreens pharmacies and that employees who pick and deliver these orders perform “fundamental[ly] bargaining[-]unit work” like unionized employees at KLPI’s grocery stores. KLPI refused to process the grievance for itself or Kroger, claiming that the Center is a warehouse, not a grocery store, and is part of Kroger’s “supply chain network,” independent from KLPI’s retail stores; KLPI has no relationship with Fulfillment Center employees.The Union pursued arbitration under the CBA. KLPI refused to arbitrate. The district court determined the Union’s claim was arbitrable under the CBA but Kroger was not a party to the CBA; KLPI was ordered to arbitrate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The grievance falls within the scope of the CBA’s arbitration agreement, which does not prevent the possible inference that the fulfillment center and its employees are covered by the CBA. View "United Food & Commercial Workers v. Kroger Co." on Justia Law
Bacoka v. Best Buy Stores, L.P.
Plaintiffs alleged that they own an apartment complex and that their tenant purchased a washing machine from Best Buy, which was negligently installed. A resulting water leak resulted in significant damage to the property, rendering several units uninhabitable.Best Buy argued that its subsidiary had a contract with Penn Ridge, under which Penn Ridge “shall provide services . . . as a duly licensed broker of property by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration … utilizing the services of independent motor carriers to effectuate the pick-up, delivery, and in-home installation of Merchandise” from Best Buy. Carriers are defined under the Agreement as “any independently owned and operated motor carrier under contract with [Penn Ridge] who may also provide Installation Services.” The carriers’ trucks did not display the Best Buy name or logo. Delivery teams did not wear any Best Buy branded clothing. The equipment used by the delivery teams varied among carriers. Penn Ridge alone determined if the carriers were qualified to provide necessary delivery and installation services. The contracts stated the carriers were providing services as independent contractors, Best Buy gave Penn Ridge access to its routing system and required that contractors comply with certain Best Buy policies and procedures.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Best Buy. There is no material dispute that the washing machine was installed by an independent contractor. View "Bacoka v. Best Buy Stores, L.P." on Justia Law
Int’l Union of Operating Engineers v. L.A. Pipeline Constr. Co.
L.A. Pipeline Construction Company, an Ohio corporation, admitted liability for failing to fully pay some of its employees - a group of engineers who worked on a pipeline job in West Virginia. L.A. Pipeline sought to avoid paying on that liability by claiming that a wage bond securing its employees’ wages had expired. Specifically, L.A. Pipeline asserted that a “Perpetual Irrevocable Letter of Credit/Wage Bond” that it obtained pursuant to the West Virginia Wage Payment Collection Act’s (WPCA) wage bond requirement was no longer in effect. The federal district court certified a question on the letter of credit/wage bond’s duration to the Supreme Court. Noting that the letter of credit/wage bond’s duration was governed by the WPCA and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), the Court answered (1) to the extent they conflict, the WPCA prevails over the UCC on the duration of a letter of credit/wage bond obtained pursuant to the WPCA; and (2) therefore, under West Virginia law, the letter of credit/wage bond at issue in this case remains in effect until terminated with the approval of the Commissioner of the Division of Labor. View "Int’l Union of Operating Engineers v. L.A. Pipeline Constr. Co." on Justia Law
In Re: Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp’t Practices Litig.
Plaintiff, a former assistant branch manager at Enterprise, filed a nationwide class action, claiming that Enterprise violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1), by failing to pay required overtime wages. The district court held that the parent company, which is the sole stockholder of 38 domestic subsidiaries, was not a “joint employer,” and granted summary judgment in favor of the parent company. The Third Circuit affirmed after examining a number of factors concerning the relationship between the parent company and the direct employer. View "In Re: Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp't Practices Litig." on Justia Law
PNGI Charles Town Gaming, LLC v. Reynolds
The Racing Commission suspended certain jockeys' occupational permits for thirty days and imposed fines for the jockeys' failure to declare an overweight amount. Afterwards, PNGI Charles Town Gaming (PNGI), a non-party in the underlying action, excluded the jockeys from its facility. The circuit court (1) entered an injunction and stayed the imposition of sanctions by the Racing Commission until the conclusion of a hearing before the Commission; and (2) extended the injunction and the stay to include PNGI, preventing PNGI from excluding the jockeys from PGNI's premises pending the outcome of the jockeys' administrative appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an ejection of a permit holder by a racing association or its stewards is subject to review by the Commission, and therefore, the jockeys, as permit holders, had the right to appeal the ejection, and PNGI was bound by the Commission's decision, subject to judicial review; and (2) PNGI waived its assigned errors regarding the injunction and stay. View "PNGI Charles Town Gaming, LLC v. Reynolds" on Justia Law
Town of Southbury v. Gonyea
An employee of Plaintiff, the town of Southbury, was injured in a car accident with Defendants, Patricia and Joseph Gonyea, during the course of employment. Employee applied for and received workers' compensation benefits from Plaintiff. Employee also made a claim against Defendants, which was settled for the Defendants' policy insurance limit. After Plaintiff perfected its statutory lien rights, Employee forwarded to Plaintiff the net proceeds he received from the settlement. Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced the present action to recover past and future works' compensation benefits it had paid, or would become obligated to pay, as a result of Employee's injuries. Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending that Plaintiff had assented to the settlement between Employee and Defendants and, thus, was barred from pursuing this action. The trial court granted Defendants' motion, concluding Plaintiff had assented to the settlement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff assented to the settlement and voluntarily relinquished its rights to recover an outstanding balance through subsequent litigation.