Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Texas Ujoints LLC v. Dana Holding Corp.
Dana had a dealer agreement in Texas with AISCO. Unbeknownst to Dana, AISCO sold off most of its assets to newly-formed DanMar, which transferred the assets to UJoints. The name “UJoints” had been a trade name used by AISCO. Under Texas Business and Commerce Coe 57.154(a)(4), “a supplier may not terminate a dealer agreement without good cause.” Good cause exists “if there has been a sale or other closeout of a substantial part of the dealer’s assets related to the business.” Dana terminated the agreement, preventing UJoints from claiming to have been authorized to step into AISCO’s shoes and become a Dana dealer in Texas. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Dana, finding that the transfers gave Dana good cause to terminate its dealer agreement with AISCO. The court rejected an argument that Dana entered into a “dealer agreement,” with the “new, unknown entity the identity of which the owners had concealed from Dana for a significant time.” It was natural for Dana to continue selling, for a time, to its dealer’s, AISCO’s, successor—UJoints. Those sales did not make UJoints a party to a dealer agreement. View "Texas Ujoints LLC v. Dana Holding Corp." on Justia Law
Woodman’s Food Mkt, Inc. v. Clorox Co.
Clorox decided to sell the largest-sized containers of its products only to discount warehouses such as Costco and Sam’s Club. Ordinary grocery stores, including Woodman’s, could only obtain smaller packages. Arguing that package size is a promotional service, Woodman’s sued Clorox for unlawful price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(e). The district court denied Clorox’s motion to dismiss. On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed. Only promotional “services or facilities” fall within subsection 13(e). Size alone is not enough to constitute a promotional service or facility for purposes of subsection 13(e); any discount that goes along with size must be analyzed under subsection 13(a). The convenience of the larger size is not a promotional service or facility. View "Woodman's Food Mkt, Inc. v. Clorox Co." on Justia Law
Hyson USA Inc. v. Hyson 2U, Ltd.
Hyson USA and Hyson 2U are food distributors. Hyson USA is wholly owned by its president, Tansky, and has operated since 2006. Kaminskas was one of its managers. In 2012, Hyson USA encountered serious financial difficulty, culminating in the loss of its liability insurance, forcing the company to suspend operations. Months later, Kaminskas established Hyson 2U. Hyson USA transferred its branded inventory and equipment to the new company. Hyson 2U leased the warehouse from which Hyson USA had operated. Tansky then switched roles with Kaminskas and went to work at the new company. Hyson 2U operated in the same manner and in the same markets as Hyson USA. In 2014, Tansky was fired. He and Hyson USA, again operational, sued Hyson 2U and Kaminskas alleging trademark infringement under the Lanham Act. The judge dismissed the trademark claims, citing acquiescence, and relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that acquiescence is a fact-intensive equitable defense that is rarely capable of resolution on a motion to dismiss. View "Hyson USA Inc. v. Hyson 2U, Ltd." on Justia Law
Am. Commercial Lines, LLC v. Lubrizol Corp.
ACL manufactures and operates tow boats and barges that operate in U.S. inland waterways. Lubrizol manufactures industrial lubricants and additives, including a diesel‐fuel additive, LZ8411A. VCS distributed the additive. Lubrizol and VCS jointly persuaded ACL to buy it from VCS. Before delivery began, Lubrizol terminated VCS as a distributor because of suspicion that it was engaging in unethical conduct: a Lubrizol’s employee had failed to disclose to his employer that he was also a principal of VCS. Lubrizol did not inform ACL that VCS was no longer its distributor. No longer able to supply ACL with LZ8411A, VCS substituted an additive that ACL contends is inferior to LZ8411A. VCS didn’t inform ACL of the substitution. According to ACL, Lubrizol learned of the substitution, but did not inform ACL. When ACL discovered the substitution, it sued both companies. ACL settled with VCS. The district judge dismissed Lubrizol. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that Lubrizol had a “special relationship” that required it to disclose ACL’s conduct, that VCS was Lubrizol’s apparent agent, and of “quasi contract” between ACL and Lubrizol. View "Am. Commercial Lines, LLC v. Lubrizol Corp." on Justia Law
Cont’l Cas. Co. v. Symons
In 1998 IGF bought Continental’s crop-insurance business at a price to be determined at either side’s option by the exercise of a put or call. In 2001 Continental exercised its put option; under the contractual formula, IGF owed Continental $25.4 million. Around that same time, IGF sold its business to Acceptance for $40 million. The Symons, who controlled IGF, structured the purchase price: $16.5 million to IGF; $9 million to IGF's parent companies Symons International and Goran in exchange for noncompetition agreements; and $15 million to Granite, an affiliated Symons-controlled company, for a reinsurance treaty. Continental, still unpaid, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent transfer. The court found for Continental and pierced the corporate veil to impose liability on the controlling companies and individuals. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding Symons International liable for breach of the 1998 sale agreement; Symons International, Goran, Granite, and the Symons liable as transferees under the Indiana Uniform False Transfer Act; and the Symons liable under an alter-ego theory. The Symons businesses observed corporate formalities only in their most basic sense. The noncompetes only made sense as a fraudulent diversion of the purchase money, not as legitimate protection from competition. The reinsurance treaty. which was suggested bySymons and outside industry norms, was unjustified and overpriced. View "Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Symons" on Justia Law
BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. v. Cont’l Carbon Co.
Continental sells carbon black, a material used in rubber products. BRC makes rubber products for the automotive industry. The companies entered into a contract that stated: It is the intent of this agreement that Continental agrees to sell to BRC approximately 1.8 million pounds of carbon black annually. In 2010, Continental shipped 2.6 million pounds to BRC. In 2011, for various reasons, Continental was struggling to keep up with the total demand from all its customers. When Continental refused to confirm or ship some of BRC’s orders, BRC sued, alleging that Continental had breached and repudiated the contract. The district court entered judgment for BRC, finding that as a matter of law that the agreement was a “requirements contract,” meaning it obligated Continental to sell as much carbon black as BRC needed, and obligated BRC to buy all its carbon black exclusively from Continental. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that the agreement did not obligate BRC to buy any—much less all— of its carbon black from Continental. View "BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. v. Cont'l Carbon Co." on Justia Law