Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Joseph v. Sasafrasnet, LLC
Joseph purchased the BP franchise in 2006 for $400,000. In 2009, Sasafrasnet purchased BP’s interests in the land and a Dealer Lease and Supply Agreement, becoming lessor and franchisor. The DLSA authorizes Sasafrasnet to terminate if Joseph fails to make payment according to EFT policy, causing a draft to be dishonored as NSF more than once in 12 months; Sasafrasnet is not obligated to extend credit, but did deliver fuel before collecting payment. There were several instances of NSF EFTs; Sasafrasnet began to require payment in advance. Later, Sasafrasnet allowed Joseph to resume paying by EFT within three days of delivery, but established a $2,500 penalty for any NSF and stated that pre-pay would resume if he incurred two more NSFs. There were additional NSFs, so that Joseph had incurred nine for amounts over $20,000 and three for amounts over $45,000. Sasafrasnet gave Joseph 90 days’ notice that it was terminating his franchise, listing the NSFs and failing scores on a mystery shopper inspection as bases for termination. Joseph sued under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 2801. The district court denied a preliminary injunction to prevent the termination. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the statute requires additional findings.View "Joseph v. Sasafrasnet, LLC" on Justia Law
Sunbeam Prods, Inc. v. Chicago Am. Mfg.
Losing money on every box fan it sold, Lakewood authorized CAM to practice Lakewood’s patents and put its trademarks on completed fans. Lakewood was to take orders; CAM would ship to customers. CAM was reluctant to gear up for production of about 1.2 million fans that Lakewood estimated it would require during the 2009 season. Lakewood provided assurance by authorizing CAM to sell the 2009 fans for its own account if Lakewood did not purchase them. Months later, Lakewood’s creditors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against it. The court-appointed trustee sold Lakewood’s business. Jarden bought the assets, including patents and trademarks. Jarden did not want Lakewood-branded fans CAM had in inventory, nor did it want CAM to sell them in competition with Jarden’s products. Lakewood’s trustee rejected the executory portion of the CAM contract, 11 U.S.C. 365(a). CAM continued to make and sell Lakewood fans. The bankruptcy judge found the contract ambiguous, relied on extrinsic evidence, and concluded that CAM was entitled to make as many fans as Lakewood estimated for the 2009 season and sell them bearing Lakewood’s marks. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that CAM had to stop making and selling fans once Lakewood stopped having requirements. View "Sunbeam Prods, Inc. v. Chicago Am. Mfg." on Justia Law
Nipponkoa Ins. Co., L v. Atlas Van Lines, Inc.
TAMS, a medical device manufacturer, hired Comtrans to coordinate shipment of equipment to a trade show in Chicago. Comtrans is not a carrier. It used its affiliate, ACS, which retained Atlas to perform the actual shipment. The Atlas truck was involved in a serious accident, leaving TAMS with more than $1 million in losses. TAMS’s insurance company sued on behalf of TAMS. Atlas is an interstate motor carrier authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to transport goods in interstate commerce. Claims are subject to the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706, which provides that a carrier of property in interstate commerce is liable for the actual loss or injury to the property caused b” the carrier, which may be limited “to a value established by written or electronic declaration of the shipper or by written agreement between the carrier and shipper if that value would be reasonable under the circumstances.” Atlas relied on the contract it had in place with ACS and the bill of lading delivered signed by a Comtrans warehouse manager when Atlas picked up TAMS’s shipment, as limiting liability to $0.60 per pound. The district court entered summary judgment for Atlas. The Seventh Circuit remanded for further development of the facts. View "Nipponkoa Ins. Co., L v. Atlas Van Lines, Inc." on Justia Law
Inskeep v. Griffin
Griffin, a futures commission merchant, went bankrupt in 1998 after one of its customers, Park, sustained trading losses of several million dollars and neither Park nor Griffin had enough capital to cover the obligations. The Bankruptcy Court first relied on admissions by the controlling Griffin partners that they failed to block a wire transfer, allowing segregated customer funds to be used to help cover Park’s (and thus Griffin’s) losses. On remand, the court reversed itself and held that the trustee failed to establish that the partners actually caused the loss of customer funds and failed to establish damages. The district court affirmed, applying the Illinois version of the Uniform Commercial Code to a series of transactions that was initiated by the margin call that caused Griffin’s downfall. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that there is no reason why the transactions at issue (which involved banks in England, Canada, France, and Germany, but not Illinois) would be governed by Illinois law. The Bankruptcy Court’s first decision appropriately relied on the partners’ admission that they failed in their obligation to protect customer funds, which was enough to hold them liable for the entire value of the wire transfer. View "Inskeep v. Griffin" on Justia Law
Albert Trostel & Sons Co. v. Notz
Trostel was founded in 1858. By 2007 the founder's relations still owned about 11 percent of its stock. Smith, which owned the rest, decided to acquire remaining shares by freezeout merger. Trostel became Smith's wholly owned subsidiary. Notz, one of the Trostel great-grandchildren, who owned 5.5 percent of the stock, rejected proffered compensation of $11,900 per share (about $7.7 million). The rest of the outside investors accepted. In an appraisal action (Wis. Stat. 180.1330(1)), the district court denied Nost's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and concluded that fair value of the stock on the merger date was $11,900 per share. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Wisconsin's corporate is legislative, not contractual and does not block corporations from availing themselves of diversity jurisdiction. View "Albert Trostel & Sons Co. v. Notz" on Justia Law
Shell Oil Prods. Co. v. Van Straaten
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), requires that electronically printed receipts not display more than the last 5 digits of the card number, but does not define "card number." A Shell card designates nine digits as the "account number" and five as the "card number" and has 14 digits embossed on the front and 18 digits encoded on the magnetic stripe. Shell printed receipts at its gas pumps with the last four digits of the account number. Plaintiffs contend that it should have printed the final four numbers that are electronically encoded on the magnetic stripe, which the industry calls the "primary account number." Plaintiffs did not claim risk of identity theft or any actual injury, but sought a penalty of $100 per card user for willful failure to comply. The district court denied Shell summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Shell did not willfully violate the Act.View "Shell Oil Prods. Co. v. Van Straaten" on Justia Law
Malik v. Falcon Holdings, LLC
The LLC was organized in 1999 to own and operate 100 fast-food restaurants. Khan owned 40% of the common units. Remaining common units, and all preferred units, were owned by Sentinel. Plaintiffs, restaurant managers, claim that they accepted lower salaries because Khan told them that he would acquire full ownership and would reward top managers with equity. In 2005, Khan became the sole equity owner, but did not distribute common units to any managers. Plaintiffs calculated that the price paid for Sentinel's interest implied that the business was worth about $48 million; in 2005, 20 managers qualified for units, so each lost about $1.2 million. The district court held that plaintiffs had not adequately estimated damages. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that value is what people will pay. The judiciary should not reject actual transactions prices when they are available.View "Malik v. Falcon Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law
ADT Sec. Servs., Inc. v. Lisle-Woodridge Fire Prot. Dist.
In 2009 the fire protection district adopted an ordinance requiring commercial buildings and multi-family residences to have fire alarms equipped with wireless radio technology to send alarm signals directly to the district's central monitoring board. The ordinance provided that the district would contract with one private alarm company to provide and service signaling equipment, displacing several private fire alarm companies that have competed for these customers. The alarm companies sued on claims under the U.S. Constitution, federal antitrust law, and state law. The district court granted summary judgment for the alarm companies on the basis of state law and enjoined the district from implementing the ordinance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the district has statutory authority to require that commercial and multi-family buildings connect directly to its monitoring board through wireless radio technology. The district does not, however, have authority to displace the entire private market by requiring all customers to buy services and equipment from itself or just one private company. View "ADT Sec. Servs., Inc. v. Lisle-Woodridge Fire Prot. Dist." on Justia Law
RWJ Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. BP Prod. N. Am., Inc.
In 2006, BP began converting company-operated gas and convenience stores into franchisee-operated stores. From 2006 to 2008, plaintiffs purchased gas station sites and entered into long-term contracts with BP for fuel and use of BP's brand name and marks. In 2009 plaintiffs sued under the Illinois Franchise Disclosure Act. Consolidated cases were removed to federal court when plaintiffs added claims under the federal Petroleum Marketing Practices Act. They later added price discrimination claims under the Robinson-Patman Act. Before trial, all federal claims were withdrawn. The district judge relinquished supplemental jurisdiction and remanded to Illinois state court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A district court has broad discretion and the general presumption in favor of relinquishment was particularly strong because the state-law claims are complex and raise unsettled legal issues. View "RWJ Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. BP Prod. N. Am., Inc." on Justia Law
Chicago United Indus. v. City of Chicago
Plaintiff, certified by the city as a minority-owned business eligible for favored treatment, sells a variety of products. The city is virtually its only customer. Early in 2005 the city began to suspect that plaintiff was a broker rather than a wholesaler, which would make it ineligible to bid for contracts as an MBE. Plaintiff had only six employees, though it claimed to have a warehouse. The city never completed its investigation, so plaintiff retains its certification. The city also believed that the company had shorted it on a shipment of aluminum sign blanks, and ultimately debarred it from dealing with the city. The company sued immediately and obtained a temporary restraining order; debarment was in effect for only eight days. The city abandoned its attempt to debar the company. The district court then ruled in favor of defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Claims by the principals in the company were frivolous, given that they continued to be employed by the company. The temporary diminution in business did not amount to destruction of the company nor did it constitute retaliation. Plaintiff did not prove breach of contract. View "Chicago United Indus. v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law