Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the "midnight deadline" rule set forth in section 4-302 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as adopted by Va. Code 8.4-302 and W. Va. Code 46-4-302, holding that there was no error.In her second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that MCNB Bank and Trust Company (MCNB) violated the midnight deadline rule adopted from the UCC and, therefore, MCNB was strictly liable for the payment of a check in the amount of $245,271.25. The circuit court granted summary judgment for MCNB, concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claim because she did not have any right to rely on the prompt payment of the check at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it granted MCNB’s motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff's alleged lack of standing to enforce the midnight deadline rule. View "Stahl v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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Melendez purchased a used 2015 Toyota from Southgate under a retail installment sales contract. Southgate assigned the contract to Westlake. Weeks later, Melendez sent a notice alleging Southgate violated the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and demanded rescission, restitution, and an injunction. Melendez later sued Southgate and Westlake, alleging violations of the CLRA, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Civil Code 1632 (requiring translation of contracts negotiated primarily in Spanish), the unfair competition law, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Westlake assigned the contract back to Southgate. Default was entered against Southgate. Westlake agreed to pay $6,204.68 ($2,500 down payment and $3,704.68 Melendez paid in monthly payments). Melendez would have no further obligations under the contract.The parties agreed Melendez could seek attorney fees, costs, expenses, and prejudgment interest. Westlake was entitled to assert all available defenses, “including the defense that no fees at all should be awarded against it as a Holder” The FTC’s “holder rule” makes the holder of a consumer credit contract subject to all claims the debtor could assert against the seller of the goods or services but caps the debtor’s recovery from the holder to the amount paid by the debtor under the contract. The trial court awarded attorney fees ($115,987.50), prejudgment interest ($2,956.62), and costs ($14,295.63) jointly and severally against Westlake, Southgate, and other defendants. The court of appeal affirmed. The limitation does not preclude the recovery of attorney fees, costs, nonstatutory costs, or prejudgment interest. View "Melendez v. Westlake Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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TitleMax provides vehicle loans at interest rates as high as 180%. The entire process occurs at a TitleMax brick-and-mortar location. The borrower receives “a check drawn on a bank outside of Pennsylvania,” The borrower grants TitleMax a security interest in the vehicle. TitleMax records its lien with the appropriate state authority. Borrowers can make payments from their home states. TitleMax does not have any offices, employees, agents, or brick-and-mortar stores and is not licensed as a lender in Pennsylvania. TitleMax claims that it never solicited Pennsylvania business and does not run television ads within Pennsylvania.Pursuant to the Consumer Discount Company Act and the Loan Interest and Protection Law, Pennsylvania’s Department of Banking and Securities issued a subpoena requesting documents regarding TitleMax’s interactions with Pennsylvania residents. TitleMax then stopped making loans to Pennsylvania residents and asserts that it has lost revenue.The district court held that Younger abstention did not apply and that the Department’s subpoena’s effect was to apply Pennsylvania’s usury laws extraterritorially in violation of the Commerce Clause.The Third Circuit reversed. Applying the Pennsylvania statutes to TitleMax does not violate the extraterritoriality principle. TitleMax receives payments from within Pennsylvania and maintains an actionable security interest in vehicles located in Pennsylvania; its conduct is not “wholly outside” of Pennsylvania. The laws do not discriminate between in-staters and out-of-staters. Pennsylvania has a strong interest in prohibiting usury. Applying Pennsylvania’s usury laws to TitleMax’s loans furthers that interest and any resulting burden on interstate commerce is, at most, incidental. View "TitleMax of Delaware Inc v. Weissmann" on Justia Law

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For 20 years, the vendor (SDM) provided food services at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In 2014 the university announced that it would competitively bid the contract for on-campus dining. The same vendor ultimately won that competition but about two years into the contract’s 10-year duration, the vendor sued the university for fraud, multiple breaches of contract, and alternatively for unjust enrichment. The university responded with fraud and breach-of-contract counterclaims. Only a few of the vendor’s breach-of-contract claims and portions of the university’s breach-of-contract claim survived summary judgment. The parties referred the remaining claims and counterclaims to arbitration and jointly moved to dismiss them. The district court granted that motion and entered final judgment, which the parties appealed, primarily to dispute the summary judgment ruling.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Drexel’s favor on SDM’s unjust enrichment and punitive damages claims, summary judgment in SDM’s favor on Drexel’s fraudulent inducement claim, and the district court’s decision to deny Drexel’s motion to strike declarations by SDM witnesses under the sham affidavit rule. The court vacated an order granting summary judgment to Drexel on SDM’s claims for fraudulent inducement, breach of contract for failure to renegotiate in good faith, and breach of a supplemental agreement for the Fall 2016 Semester. The surviving claims were remanded to the district court. View "SodexoMAGIC LLC v. Drexel University" on Justia Law

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Long and the Piercys operated a Tennessee quarry. Their agreement was silent as to whether their division of “profit” would be based on gross profit after payment of a royalty or net profit after payment of the royalty plus other costs. Based on the division of labor and respective contributions, Long believed that the four individuals should receive equal shares of the gross profit. When Long complained, the Piercys padlocked him off the property and threatened to call the sheriff, then stopped paying Long. A state court chancellor found that Long was entitled to the difference between what the Piercys had paid him and what Long should have received ($151,670.87) but rejected Long’s claim for lost anticipated profits, declining to find that the Piercys breached the partnership agreement but assessing costs against the Piercys.The Piercys sought Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief. Long initiated adversary proceedings, seeking a declaration that the judgment was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4) for debts incurred by embezzlement, or through defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity. The Sixth Circuit reversed the bankruptcy court and district court. Long’s state-court judgment may be declared nondischargeable if Long can produce evidence of wrongful intent. The state-court judgment is unclear as to the basis for its relief and does not preclude a finding of fraud. Under the Tennessee Revised Uniform Partnership Act, partners owe each other fiduciary duties. View "Long v. Piercy" on Justia Law

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Glaser Weil, former counsel of plaintiff William Rice, appeals from an order disgorging a $450,000 payment to Glaser Weil by Triton, an entity owned and controlled by Rice. The trial court concluded that the payment should instead have gone to Defendant Gary Downs, who had obtained an order charging Rice's interest in Triton to satisfy an earlier judgment entered in Downs' favor.In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that when Rice, as sole managing member of Triton, directed the company to disburse funds to pay his legal bills, it constituted a distribution to him subject to the charging order. However, the court disagreed with the trial court on the lien priority question and held that Glaser Weil's security agreement, perfected by the filing of a financing statement, has priority over the later charging order. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rice v. Downs" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court requiring the parties to arbitrate their dispute in this case, holding that the district court erred in compelling arbitration.In 2000, Air-Con signed a written distribution agreement with Daikin Industries, LTD to be an authorized distributor in Puerto Rico of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. The agreement contained an arbitration provision requiring the parties to arbitrate any disputes in Japan. Also in 2000, Air-Con established a distribution relationship with Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC, Daikin Industries' subsidiary. In 2018, Air-Con filed suit against Daikin Applied seeking injunctive relief and damages under Puerto Rico's Dealer Protection Act. After the case was removed to federal court Daikin Applied filed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that the written agreement between Air-Con and Daikin Industries governed Daikin Applied's relationship with Air-Con. The district court agreed with Daikin Applied. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Air-Con agreed to arbitrate the claims at issue in this case. View "Air-Con, Inc. v. Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a gold-coin dealer sustained its loss consequent upon handing over its coins against fraudulent checks and that the shipper's alleged negligence in rerouting the shipment was not an independent cause of the loss.The dealer in this case purchased insurance to cover its shipments against physical loss, and the policy excluded losses "consequent upon" the dealer's handing over its coins to another against fraudulent checks. A thief had paid the dealer for two shipments of coins using fraudulent checks, and after the checks cleared, the dealer shipped the coins to the thief. Using the tracking information accompanying the shipment, the thief convinced the shipper to reroute the coins from their initial destination to a pickup facility. The dealer made claims under its policy with its insurer, seeking to recover the value of the coins. The insurer denied almost all requested coverage. The Supreme Court answered certified questions of law and held (1) a loss sustained "consequent upon" an event connotes but-for causation under the policy's exclusion of coverage for property handed over to a third party against a fraudulent check; and (2) the third-party shipper's alleged negligence was a concurrent cause of the loss, dependent upon handing over the property against the fraudulent checks. View "Dillon Gage Inc. of Dallas v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Plaintiff's motion for class-action certification in her suit against Defendant, a car dealership, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the motion.Plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Defendant alleging that the "mandatory notice of private or public sale" sent by Defendant repossessing Plaintiff's vehicle and informing her that the vehicle would be sold at a public sale failed to comply with the Uniform Commercial Code and Arkansas law and that the accrued interest rate was unlawful. The circuit court denied Plaintiff's motion for class certification without holding a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in refusing to certify the class based on the record before it. View "Rivera-Ceren v. Presidential Limousine & Auto Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

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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