Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Barclays Bank PLC v. Poynter
Defendant bought a custom-made yacht with the help of a loan from Barclays Bank. When Defendant stopped making payments on the loan, Barclays repossessed the yacht and sold it pursuant to the Florida UCC. Barclays got less than what Defendant owed on the yacht, and therefore, Barclays sued Defendant for the deficiency. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Barclays was barred from recovering the deficiency because, in violation of the mortgage's terms, it did not provide Defendant with proper notice of the sale. The district court denied Defendant's motion and sua sponte granted summary judgment in favor of Barclays. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the notice Barclays provided to Defendant was sufficient. View "Barclays Bank PLC v. Poynter" on Justia Law
Global Naps, Inc. v. Verizon New England, Inc.
For approximately a decade, Global NAPs, Inc. (GNAPs) had been engaged in litigation with Verizon New England, Inc. The dispute arose over access fees the companies owed each other. Verizon prevailed in the dispute in 2009, but the district court as of the date of this appeal was still overseeing a receivership sale to satisfy the judgment against GNAPs. In 2011, the district court entered a sale order authorizing the sale of assets to Quality Speaks, LLC. In 2012, the district court entered an order imposing an injunction against GNAPs' former principal, Frank Gangi, prohibiting Gangi from taking any action to interfere with the ability of the receiver to transfer purchased assets in connection with the sale, or to reduce the value of the purchased assets. Gangi appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the injunction was plainly justified under longstanding equity principles. View "Global Naps, Inc. v. Verizon New England, Inc." on Justia Law
House of Flavors, Inc. v. TFG-Michigan, L.P.
House of Flavors purchased equipment from Tetra and executed an agreement with Tetra to fund its installation. Under the agreement, Tetra paid for the installation, House of Flavors then transferred ownership of the installed system to Tetra, and Tetra leased the system back to House of Flavors. After House of Flavors began monthly lease payments, it sought to exercise the buy back option a year early. Notwithstanding the twelve percent estimate it quoted earlier, Tetra quoted a purchase price around forty percent of the equipment and installation costs. House of Flavors filed suit in federal district court, where it prevailed on its claims. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed but remanded the case to reconsider the balance due between the parties. On remand, the judge recalculated the balance due and determined that, rather than owing House of Flavors, Tetra was in fact due $156,399. The First Circuit dismissed House of Flavors' appeal, holding (1) the attack on the recalculated figure was foreclosed by a jurisdictional objection, as the appeal was untimely; and (2) the appeal was jurisdictionally timely as to the district court's refusal to award attorneys' fees under a Utah statute, but the denial of attorneys' fees was affirmed. View "House of Flavors, Inc. v. TFG-Michigan, L.P." on Justia Law
Greenpack of PR, Inc. v. Am. President Lines
Plaintiff sought damages resulting from a delayed delivery of perishable food items from Puerto Limón, Costa Rica to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed as time-barred by the statute of limitations in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 46 U.S.C. 30701. The First Circuit affirmed,rejecting and argument that the parties meant to incorporate COGSA solely for the purpose of limiting the carrier's liability to $500, per COGSA's limitation of liability provision and equitable arguments. View "Greenpack of PR, Inc. v. Am. President Lines" on Justia Law
Fishman Transducers, Inc. v. Paul
HSN sold through its website and television station about 70,000 "Esteban" guitars that it identified, inaccurately, as containing Fishman pickups. Esteban is the performance name used by musician Paul who, with his company Daystar, has collaborated with HSN since 2001 to market Esteban guitar packages. Fishman, manufacturer of the pickup at issue, which is attached to musical instruments for sound amplification, claimed trademark infringement and false advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.1051, against HSN, Paul, and Daystar. The district court rejected the claims, finding that the violations were not "willful." The judge chose not to order disgorgement of profits. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings and jury instructions. In federal civil litigation willfulness requires a conscious awareness of wrongdoing by the defendant or at least conduct deemed "objectively reckless" measured against standards of reasonable behavi View "Fishman Transducers, Inc. v. Paul" on Justia Law
Patco Constr. Co., Inc. v. People’s United Bank
Over seven days in 2009, Ocean Bank authorized six apparently fraudulent withdrawals, totaling $588,851.26, from an account held by Patco, after the perpetrators correctly supplied Patco's customized answers to security questions. Although the bank's security system flagged each transaction as unusually "high-risk" because they were inconsistent with the timing, value, and geographic location of Patco's regular orders, the system did not notify commercial customers of such information and allowed the payments to go through. Ocean Bank was able to block or recover $243,406.83. Patco sued, alleging that the bank should bear the loss because its security system was not commercially reasonable under Article 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 11, 4-1101) and that Patco had not consented to the procedures. The district court held that the bank's security system was commercially reasonable and entered judgment in favor of the bank. The First Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment on commercial reasonableness and remanded for determination of what, if any, obligations or responsibilities Article 4A imposes on Patco. View "Patco Constr. Co., Inc. v. People's United Bank" on Justia Law
Rockwood v. SKF, USA, Inc.
After the company began to fail, plaintiffs, co-founders and shareholders of Environamics, which designed, manufactured, and sold pumps and sealing devices, sought investors to satisfy its debt. SKF learned that Environamics had developed and patented a "universal power frame" that SKF had been trying to develop for some time, and repeatedly expressed interest in acquiring Environamics. Environamics began to share confidential business information with SKF, stopped seeking out new distribution channels and ceased looking for other opportunities to pay its debt. They gave SKF an irrevocable option to purchase all outstanding Environamics stock and made SKF exclusive marketer and reseller of Environamics products. SKF paid Environamics $2 million. The relationship deteriorated as Environamics required additional financing. Because of SKF’s rights and requirements, plaintiffs made personal guarantees to obtain financing from Wells Fargo. Eventually Environamics filed for bankruptcy. Plaintiffs, responsible for roughly $5 million in personal guarantees on the Wells Fargo loan, sued under an estoppel theory. The district court granted SKF summary judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, finding no specific, competent evidence of any promise made by SKF to buy Environamics on terms other than those of the Option on which plaintiffs could reasonably have relied View "Rockwood v. SKF, USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Fabrica de Muebles J.J. Alvare v. Inversiones Mendoza, Inc.
Plaintiff contracted to sell a furniture business to Mendoza in 2004. Westernbank provided partial funding and obtained a first mortgage. To secure a deferred payment of $750,000, Mendoza signed a mortgage in favor of plaintiff and a contract under which plaintiff consigned goods with expected sales value of more than $6,000,000. An account was opened at Westernbank for deposit of sales proceeds. Plaintiff alleges that Westernbank kept funds to which plaintiff was entitled for satisfaction of Mendoza’s debts to Westernbank. Mendoza filed for bankruptcy and transferred its real estate to Westernbank in exchange for release of debt to the bank. Plaintiff agreed to forgive unpaid debts in order to obtain relief from the stay and foreclose its mortgage, then sued Westernbank, employees, and insurers, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961-68, and Puerto Rico law causes of action. After BPPR became successor to Westernbank, plaintiff agreed to dismiss the civil law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims and the RICO claim. The district court later dismissed remaining claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over non-federal claims. The First Circuit affirmed. View "Fabrica de Muebles J.J. Alvare v. Inversiones Mendoza, Inc." on Justia Law
Liu v. Amerco
A proposed consent order from an FTC investigation indicated that U-Haul attempted to implement a scheme to collude with competitors, Budget and Penske, to raise prices for truck rentals. The FTC concluded that U-Haul's conduct violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1). The proposed consent order was designed to prevent collusion. U-Haul consented to the relief, but did not admit the conduct or violation. A consumer filed a complaint charging U-Haul with violating Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A by engaging in an attempted price-fixing scheme and seeking damages on behalf of a large class. The suit, a follow-on action after a proposed government consent decree, is common in antitrust cases. Because the FTC Act contains no private right of action and the Sherman Act is of doubtful application to price-fixing, the suit rested chapter 93A, which prohibits "[u]nfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices," and permits consumer class actions. The complaint alleged that U-Haul's actions caused plaintiff to pay at least 10 percent more for truck rentals than she would have absent the unlawful action. The district court dismissed, stating that the complaint failed plausibly to allege injury. The First Circuit vacated, finding the claim plausible. View "Liu v. Amerco" on Justia Law
Amicas, Inc. v. GMG Health Sys., LTD.
GMG contracted with Amicas to develop and license computer programs to accept information from a radiology patient management system established by Sage and send information to a billing system established by Sage. The warranty excluded any failure resulting from databases of GMG or third parties and warned that Amicas did not warrant that the software would meet GMG’s requirements. Amicas worked with Sage on the interfaces. GMG began using the programs and reported problems, eventually returning to its old method of manual processing, but did not inform Amicas of that decision or of persistent problems with the interface. GMG began negotiating with Sage to develop substitute software. When Amicas became aware of problems with the interface, it worked with Sage to resolve the concerns, but GMG sent Amicas a termination notice, citing failure to deliver a functional product. The district court found for Amicas on its breach of contract claim, rejected counterclaims, and awarded $778,889 in damages, $324,805 in attorneys’ fees, plus costs and interest. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that Amicas satisfied its burden of proving performance and that GMG offered only conclusory allegations of noncompliance. View "Amicas, Inc. v. GMG Health Sys., LTD." on Justia Law