Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) partially vacating the circuit court's judgment entering judgment against Plaintiffs in this action alleging that Defendants intentionally misrepresented the value of a limousine service, holding that some of the rulings of the trial court in this complex commercial dispute involving the sale of the business were in error. The Lacy Parties represented Goran and Ana Maria Pleho in purchasing the business. The transaction was completed in the name of Goran PLeho LLC (GPLLC). After the purchase, the Plehos and GPLLC (collectively, Pleho Parties) sued, alleging that Lacy Parties intentionally misrepresented the value of the business. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the circuit court's dismissal of Pleho Parties' intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims and the court's grant of judgment as a matter of law in favor of Lacy Parties on GPLLC's fraud and punitive damages claims; (2) vacated the ICA's judgment to the extent that it vacated the circuit court's order denying Lacy Parties' motion in limine; and (3) vacated the ICA's judgment to the extent that it affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Lacy Parties on the Pleho's unfair and deceptive trade practices claim. View "Goran Pleho, LLC v. Lacy" on Justia Law

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Sanchelima contracted to serve as Walker’s exclusive distributor of silos in 13 Latin American countries. Walker agreed not to sell silos directly to third parties in those countries. The contract contained a limited remedies provision and a damages disclaimer and was subject to Wisconsin law. Walker assigned a representative to work with Sanchelima, but otherwise did not market its products in the relevant countries. In 2014, Walker nonetheless sold silos for a factory in Mexico and to a Nicaraguan company. In 2015, Walker sold silos to a Mexican plant; in 2017, Walker sold tanks to a Mexican company. Sanchelima notified Walker that it considered the sales a breach of the agreement, then filed suit. Walker terminated the agreement without cause. Sanchelima sought lost profits of more than $600,000. Walker cited the limited remedies provision as an affirmative defense. It explicitly precludes recovery of “any lost profits … arising out of or in connection with the Distributor Agreement.” The district court held that provision violates Wisconsin’s version of the UCC 2‐719, Wis. Stat. 402.719: Where circumstances cause an exclusive or limited remedy to fail of its essential purpose, remedy may be had as provided in chs. 401 to 411... Consequential damages may be limited or excluded unless the limitation or exclusion is unconscionable. Because the limited remedy provision provided no relief for Walker’s breach of the exclusivity provision, the court held it failed of its essential purpose and awarded Sanchelima $778,306.70. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has interpreted UCC's limited remedy provisions; other states have interpreted those provisions differently. The Seventh Circuit declined to overturn state precedent as inconsistent with modern trends, “until and unless the Wisconsin Supreme Court decides to overturn it.” View "Sanchelima International, Inc. v. Walker Stainless Equipment Co., KKC" on Justia Law

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This case involved a lien contest among three creditors of a bankrupt commercial farm. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for PNC and found no error in the district court's ruling that the Nurseries' liens were not senior to PNC's lien on the bankrupt company's assets. The court held that the district court correctly rejected the Nurseries' argument that any choice of law provision in the Fishback-BFN contracts should control the law applicable to the Nurseries' lien dispute with PNC; the Nurseries failed to show that the district court misapplied either the Texas or federal choice-of-law rules; and Fishback failed to comply, substantially or otherwise, with Oregon’s notice requirement via a UCC financing statement. View "Fishback Nursery, Inc. v. PNC Bank" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss this suit brought by the insurer (Insurer) of a chicken products manufacturer seeking damages from the manufacturer's chicken supplier (Supplier) for claims under Maine law of breach of warranty and strict product liability, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the claims. Insurer sought to recoup the money it paid to the manufacturer for the losses the manufacturer incurred when its products were recalled following a salmonella outbreak. Insurer's complaint against Supplier alleged that the manufacturer received raw chicken from Supplier that was contaminated with salmonella and was therefore defective under Maine law. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding that the allegations in the complaint did not plausibly allege that the raw chicken sent by Supplier to the manufacturer was defective and that the strict liability claim was independently barred by the economic loss doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) as to the breach of warranty claims, Insurer failed to plausibly allege that the raw chicken at issue was contaminated with a type of salmonella that would persist despite proper cooking; and (2) Insurer's strict liability claim was properly dismissed because the complaint failed to allege facts that could suffice to show that the chicken was defective. View "Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Greater Omaha Packing Company, Inc. (GOP) as to Meyer Natural Foods LLC’s breach of contract action following a purported E. coli contamination of beef owned by Meyer and processed by GOP, holding that although the district court incorrectly applied the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in regard to Meyer’s acceptance of adulterated meat under the parties’ processing agreement, the court nevertheless arrived at the correct result. Under the agreement, GOP would slaughter Meyer’s cattle, process the beef, and fabricate the beef into various beef productions. After testing resulted in a very high percentage of presumptive positive findings for E. coli, Meyer filed suit against GOP. The district court granted summary judgment for GOP. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court erred in finding that Meyer had accepted the contaminated beef under the agreement or under the UCC, but the court’s ultimate conclusion was correct, as Meyer failed to adhere to the terms to properly reject products under the agreement. View "Meyer Natural Foods v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law

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Kreg, a medical-supply company, contracted with VitalGo, maker of the Total Lift Bed®, for exclusive distribution rights in several markets. A year and a half later, the arrangement soured. VitalGo told Kreg that it had not made the minimum‐purchase commitments required by the contract for Kreg to keep its exclusivity. Kreg thought VitalGo was wrong on the facts and the contract’s requirements. The district court ruled, on summary‐judgment that VitalGo breached the agreement. The damages issue went to a bench trial, despite a last-minute request from VitalGo to have it dismissed on pleading grounds. The court ordered VitalGo to pay Kreg about $1,000,000 in lost‐asset damages and prejudgment interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s rulings that the agreement allowed Kreg to make minimum-purchase commitments orally; that the minimum‐purchase commitment for the original territories was made in December 2010; that VitalGo breached the agreement by terminating exclusivity in June 2011 and by failing to deliver beds in September 2011; and concerning the foreseeability of damages. View "Kreg Therapeutics, Inc. v. VitalGo, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a provider of short term loans to automobile dealers, who still retained the title certificates for the vehicles and believed it had a perfected security interest, filed suit against defendant for the amounts that plaintiff should have been paid by the dealerships (i.e., the loan amounts due) upon the sale of the subject vehicles. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court prejudicially erred by finding in defendant's favor, because the circumstances of this case were sufficiently close and/or analogous to those in Quartz of Southern California, Inc. v. Mullen Bros., Inc. (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 901, to warrant its application here. The court explained that, here, as in Quartz, plaintiff was in rightful possession of the title certificates to the vehicles that were sold by the dealerships to consumers under conditional sales contracts; the dealerships went out of business without paying what was owed to plaintiff concerning said vehicles; and defendant as finance lender took assignment of the conditional sales contracts without requiring production of the title certificates or ascertaining who held title and how much was owed to obtain it. The court reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine the precise amount of money defendant must pay plaintiff for the title certificates to the vehicles in question, after which a new judgment shall be entered in favor of plaintiff. View "Ron Miller Enterprises, Inc. v. Lobel Financial Corp." on Justia Law

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U.C.C. 9-319(a), which grants a consignee "rights and title to the goods," also grants the consignee an interest in the proceeds of those goods that were generated prior to bankruptcy. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's grant of summary judgment for the bankruptcy trustee who brought an adversary proceeding seeking avoidance of transfers. Under settled bankruptcy law, if a consignee files for bankruptcy, any consigned "goods" in its possession become property of the bankruptcy estate unless the seller has previously provided public notice of its interest in the goods (normally by filing a document known as a "financing statement") and thereby "perfected" its interest. The panel held that this rule also extended to the proceeds from goods sold that are held by the consignee on the date it files for bankruptcy. View "IPC (USA), Inc. v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The four plaintiffs in this interpleader action (MDQ entities) are limited liability companies that hold production rights or are producers in different territories of a Tony-award winning Broadway musical, "Million Dollar Quartet." MDQ entities filed a complaint in interpleader, alleging conflicting claims by Cleopatra and Gilbert Kelly for those portions of distributions owed to Mutrux that had not otherwise been assigned to Katell Productions. MDQ entities deposited the distributions and undertook to add any future distributions not owed and remitted to Katell Productions to the interpleaded funds. At issue on appeal was which adverse claimant was entitled to the interpleaded funds: a judgment creditor with a properly recorded judgment lien, or an assignee who did not file a financing statement with respect to distributions irrevocably assigned to it by the judgment debtor before the judgment lien was recorded. The court held that, although the assignment created a security interest, the judgment creditor was entitled to the interpleaded funds because its recorded judgment lien had priority over the unperfected security interest. In this case, there was no error in the trial court's judgment releasing the interpleaded funds to Cleopatra and ordering the MDQ entities to pay all subsequent monies otherwise payable to Mutrux, except those allocated to Katell Productions, to Cleopatra, until the judgment was satisfied. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Gilbert Kelly to pay attorney fees and costs. View "MDQ, LLC v. Gilbert, Kelly, Crowley & Jennett LLP" on Justia Law

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Huber, a member of the Wiyot Band of Indians, owns and operates a tobacco smoke shop on the Table Bluff Rancheria, near Crescent City. Huber “sold huge quantities of noncompliant cigarettes and transported at least 14,727,290 packs to other stores within the state but beyond her reservation; she invoiced over $30 million for these sales. Her employees delivered the cigarettes using her vehicles on state roads. The Attorney General sued, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), citing as predicate “unlawful acts” violations the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code, 14951(a)). The trial court granted summary adjudication and entered a permanent injunction on all three claims. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Huber’s arguments that, under a federal statute granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked authority to proceed on any of the claims, and that, under the doctrine of Indian preemption, which limits the reach of state law to conduct by Indians on Indian reservations, all the statutes were preempted by paramount federal authority. To the extent enforcement occurs off-reservation, the Wiyot right to self-governance is not implicated. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law