Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

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Davenport, convicted of first-degree murder following a jury trial where he sat shackled at a table with a “privacy screen,” argued that his conviction should be set aside because the Due Process Clause generally forbids such shackling absent “a special need.” On remand, the trial court conducted a hearing; jurors testified that the shackles had not affected their verdict. The federal district court found habeas relief unwarranted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The Sixth Circuit reversed without analyzing the case under AEDPA.The Supreme Court reversed. When a state court has ruled on the merits of a prisoner’s claim, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief without applying both the Supreme Court's "Brecht" test and AEDPA. Brecht held that the harmless-error rule for direct appeals was inappropriate for federal habeas review of final state-court judgments. A state prisoner must show that a state court's error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence” on the trial’s outcome, AEDPA instructs that if a state court has adjudicated the petitioner’s claim on the merits, a federal court “shall not” grant habeas relief “unless” the state court’s decision was “contrary to” or an “unreasonable application of” clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or based on an “unreasonable determination of the facts” presented in the state-court proceeding.The Court rejected Davenport’s argument that the AEDPA inquiry represents a logical subset of the Brecht test, so the Sixth Circuit necessarily found that he satisfied AEDPA. AEDPA asks whether every fair-minded jurist would agree that an error was prejudicial, Brecht asks only whether a federal habeas court itself harbors grave doubt about the verdict. The legal materials a court may consult when answering each test also differ. Even assuming that Davenport’s claim can survive Brecht, he cannot satisfy AEDPA. Nothing in Supreme Court precedent is inconsistent with the Michigan Court of Appeals’ reliance on post-trial testimony from actual jurors. View "Brown v. Davenport" on Justia Law

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Following the merger of Centene Corporation ("Centene") and Health Net, Inc. ("Health Net)," certain shareholders of Centene (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought five claims on behalf of the corporation against certain of its former and then-current directors and officers and nominal defendant Centene (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiffs did not make a pre-suit demand on Centene's Board of Directors (the Board). The district court dismissed their complaint with prejudice, finding that the plaintiffs failed to plead particularized facts demonstrating that a demand would have been futile.The Eighth Circuit found that the plaintiffs failed to plead facts showing the relevant documents contained a material misrepresentation. Further, the court did not consider the second or third claims because the plaintiffs made no argument contesting the district court's finding that a majority of the Board faces a substantial likelihood of liability. Next, the circuit court held that the plaintiffs' futility argument was patently insufficient. Finally, the circuit court found that at least half of the Board does not face a substantial likelihood of liability under the plaintiffs' insider trading claim. As such, the circuit court found the same as to plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim pertaining to alleged insider trading. The circuit court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Carpenters' Pension Fund of IL v. Michael Neidorff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Roy Elizondo and dismissing this action brought by Cadence Bank, N.A. for breach of a deposit agreement, breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and common-law torts, holding that the lower courts erred.In response to a stranger's email for legal assistance, Elizondo, an attorney, deposited a cashier's check in his bank account then wired most of the funds to an overseas account. The check was dishonored, and the bank charged the transfer back to Elizondo, as allowed by the UCC and the parties' deposit agreement. When Elizondo refused to pay the overdrawn funds Cadence brought this action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Elizondo, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the wire-transfer form failed to create the contractual duty urged by Elizondo. View "Cadence Bank, N.A. v. Elizondo" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that a consequential-damages exclusion is enforceable in a contract for the sale of goods. The court concluded that the contract is clear that Viracon is not liable for consequential damages and found Far East's arguments to the contrary unpersuasive. In this case, the consequential-damages exclusion provision is not unconscionable under Minn. Stat. Sec. 336.2-719(3), and the alleged failure of the contract’s exclusive remedy has no effect on the enforceability of the consequential-damages exclusion. To the extent Far East’s indemnity claim survives the consequential-damages exclusion, it fails because there is no express contract obligating Viracon to reimburse it for the liability of the character involved. Finally, the court denied leave to amend. View "Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc." on Justia Law

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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