Articles Posted in Business Law

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Kohl’s operates more than 1000 stores, 65 percent of which are leased. In 2011, Kohl’s announced that it was correcting several years of its financial filings because of multiple lease accounting errors. Plaintiffs, led by the Pension Fund, filed suit under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), SEC Rule 10b-5, and the “controlling person” provisions of 15 U.S.C. 78t(a), alleging that Kohl’s and two executives defrauded investors by publishing false and misleading information prior to the corrections. The Fund argued that one can infer that the defendants knew that these statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility because Kohl’s recently had made similar lease accounting errors. Despite those earlier errors, it was pursuing aggressive investments in leased properties, and at the same time, company insiders sold considerable amounts of stock. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to meet the enhanced pleading requirements for scienter imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the complaint fell short and the Fund did not suggest how an amendment might help. The Fund made a strong case that many of Kohl’s disclosures regarding its lease accounting practices were false but that is not enough. The Fund provided very few facts that would point either toward or away from scienter. View "Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers v. Kohl's Corp." on Justia Law

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Knopick purchased a Jayco recreational vehicle from an independent Iowa dealer for $414,583, taking title through an LLC he alone controlled. Jayco’s two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty disclaims all implied warranties and “does not cover … any RV used for rental or other commercial purposes,” explains that an RV is “used for commercial and/or business purposes if the RV owner or user files a tax form claiming any business or commercial tax benefit related to the RV, or if the RV is purchased, registered or titled in a business name,” and states that performance of repairs excluded from coverage are "goodwill" repairs and do not alter the warranty. Almost immediately, Knopick claims, the RV leaked, smelled of sewage, had paint issues, and contained poorly installed features, including bedspreads screwed into furniture and staples protruding from the carpet. Knopick drove it to Jayco’s Indiana factory for repairs. He later picked up the RV to drive to his Texas home. Concerned about continuing problems, Knopick left it at a Missouri repair facility, from which a Jayco driver took it to Indiana for further repairs. Jayco later had a driver deliver the coach to Knopick in Arkansas. Knopick remained unsatisfied and sued for breach of warranty under state law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Jayco, finding that Knopick had no rights under the warranty because the RV was purchased by a business entity. View "Knopick v. Jayco, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Goplin began working at WeConnect, he signed the “AEI Alternative Entertainment Inc. Open Door Policy and Arbitration Program,” which referred to AEI throughout; it never mentioned WeConnect. Goplin brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. WeConnect moved to compel arbitration, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), attaching an affidavit from its Director of Human Resources stating, “I am employed by WeConnect, Inc.—formerly known as Alternative Entertainment, Inc. or AEI.” Goplin claimed that WeConnect was not a party to the agreement and could not enforce it. He cited language on WeConnect’s website: WeConnect formed when two privately held companies, Alternative Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) and WeConnect Enterprise Solutions, combined in September 2016… we officially became one company. WeConnect asserted that WeConnect and AEI were two names for the same legal entity, stating: This was a name change, not a merger. The court held that WeConnect did not establish that it was a party to the agreement or otherwise entitled to enforce it. The court rejected subsequently-submitted corporate-form documents and affidavits, stating that new evidence cannot be introduced in a motion for reconsideration unless the movant shows “not only that [the] evidence was newly discovered or unknown to it until after the hearing, but also that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Goplin v. WeConnect, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2003, Pain Center contracted with SSIMED for medical-billing software and related services. In 2006, the parties entered into another contract, for records-management software and related services. In 2013, Pain Center sued SSIMED for breach of contract, breach of warranty, breach of the implied duty of good faith, and four tort claims, all arising out of alleged shortcomings in SSIMED’s software and services. The district judge found the entire suit untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on all but the claims for breach of contract. The judge applied the four-year statute of limitations under Indiana’s Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), holding that the two agreements are mixed contracts for goods and services, but the goods (i.e., the software) predominate. The Seventh Circuit disagreed. Under Indiana’s “predominant thrust” test for mixed contracts, the agreements in question fall on the “services” side of the line, so the UCC does not apply. The breach-of-contract claims are subject to Indiana’s 10-year statute of limitations for written contracts and are timely. Pain Center licensed SSIMED’s preexisting, standardized software but received monthly billing and IT services for the life of both contracts. View "Pain Center of SE Indiana, LLC v. Origin Healthcare Solutions LLC" on Justia Law

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Arla, a Denmark-based global dairy conglomerate, launched a $30 million advertising campaign aimed at expanding its U.S. cheese sales, branded “Live Unprocessed.” The ads assure consumers that Arla cheese contains no “weird stuff” or “ingredients that you can’t pronounce,” particularly, no milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (“rbST”), an artificial growth hormone. The flagship ad implies that milk from rbST-treated cows is unwholesome. Narrated by a seven-year-old girl, the ad depicts rbST as a cartoon monster with razor-sharp horns. Elanco makes the only FDA-approved rbST supplement. Elanco sued, alleging that the ads contain false and misleading statements in violation of the Lanham Act. Elanco provided scientific literature documenting rbST’s safety, and evidence that a major cheese producer had decreased its demand for rbST in response to the ads. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the issuance of a preliminary injunction, rejecting arguments that Elanco failed to produce consumer surveys or other reliable evidence of actual consumer confusion and did not submit adequate evidence linking the ad campaign to decreased demand for its rbST. Consumer surveys or other “hard” evidence of actual consumer confusion are unnecessary at the preliminary-injunction stage. The evidence of causation is sufficient at this stage: the harm is easily traced because Elanco manufactures the only FDA-approved rbST. The injunction is sufficiently definite and adequately supported by the record and the judge’s findings. View "Eli Lilly and Co. v. Arla Foods USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs defaulted on credit cards. PRA, an Illinois debt collection agency, bought the accounts for collection. Debtors Legal Clinic sent separate letters on behalf of each plaintiff to PRA, stating “the amount reported is not accurate.” PRA later reported each debt to credit reporting agencies without noting that the debt was “disputed.” Plaintiffs each filed a suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(8), alleging that PRA communicated their debts to credit reporting agencies without indicating they had disputed the debt. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. PRA’s alleged violation of section 1692e(8) is sufficient to show an injury‐in‐fact; the plaintiffs suffered “a real risk of financial harm caused by an inaccurate credit rating.” The court rejected PRA’s argument that the phrase “the amount reported is not accurate” was ambiguous. Section 1692e(8) does not require the use of the word “dispute.” The “knows or should know” standard of section 1692e(8) “requires no notification by the consumer … and instead, depends solely on the debt collector’s knowledge that a debt is disputed, regardless of how that knowledge is acquired.” The court concluded that PRA’s error was material. View "Bowse v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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Baek purchased property through his LLC and obtained financing from Labe Bank; Frank was the loan officer. Frank later moved to NCB and asked Baek to move his business, representing that NCB would provide a larger construction loan at a lower rate. In 2006, Baek entered a construction loan with NCB for $11,750,000. Baek executed a loan agreement, mortgage, promissory note, and commercial guaranty. Baek’s wife did not sign the guaranty at closing. NCB maintains that, 18 months after closing, she signed a guaranty. One loan modification agreement bears her signature but Baek‐Lee contends that it was forged and that she was out of the country on the signing date. NCB repeatedly demanded additional collateral and refused to disburse funds to contractors. The Baeks claim that NCB frustrated Baek’s efforts to comply with its demands. In 2010, NCB filed state suits for foreclosure and on the guaranty. The Baeks filed affirmative defenses and a counterclaim, then filed a breach of contract and fraud suit against NCB. The Baeks later filed a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964(c), suit alleging fraud. The state court granted NCB summary judgment. The federal district court dismissed, citing res judicata. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There has been a final judgment on the merits with the same parties, in state court, on claims arising from a single group of operative facts. View "Baek v. Clausen" on Justia Law

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CNH, which manufactures “New Holland” brand farming and construction machinery, hired the real estate services firm, JLL, to manage a corporate re-branding program that involved the replacement of signage more than 1,400 North American dealerships. The vinyl used in the new signs was defective, necessitating the re-manufacture and replacement of virtually all of the installed signs. After the vinyl manufacturer repudiated its commitment to replace, at its own cost, the defective signs, CNH sued, alleging that JLL had failed to perform adequate quality control in the manufacturing of the signs, failed to negotiate the best possible warranty on the vinyl and the signs, and failed to properly document and manage the warranties. The district court found that CNH had suffered damages of $5,482,735 but reduced JLL’s liability to $3,026.361.60—the sum CNH paid to JLL in project management fees—plus such other amounts JLL might recover from third parties (the vinyl manufacturer and the sign fabricators) in the future. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court’s findings were supported by the evidence and make clear that JLL’s own failures with respect to quality control in the manufacturing process and with respect to the vinyl warranty made the defective-sign problem much worse for CNH than it otherwise would have been. View "CNH Industrial America LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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CNH, which manufactures “New Holland” brand farming and construction machinery, hired the real estate services firm, JLL, to manage a corporate re-branding program that involved the replacement of signage more than 1,400 North American dealerships. The vinyl used in the new signs was defective, necessitating the re-manufacture and replacement of virtually all of the installed signs. After the vinyl manufacturer repudiated its commitment to replace, at its own cost, the defective signs, CNH sued, alleging that JLL had failed to perform adequate quality control in the manufacturing of the signs, failed to negotiate the best possible warranty on the vinyl and the signs, and failed to properly document and manage the warranties. The district court found that CNH had suffered damages of $5,482,735 but reduced JLL’s liability to $3,026.361.60—the sum CNH paid to JLL in project management fees—plus such other amounts JLL might recover from third parties (the vinyl manufacturer and the sign fabricators) in the future. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court’s findings were supported by the evidence and make clear that JLL’s own failures with respect to quality control in the manufacturing process and with respect to the vinyl warranty made the defective-sign problem much worse for CNH than it otherwise would have been. View "CNH Industrial America LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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A father and son left employment at Engineered Abrasives to start a competing business, American Machine, in 2011. Several lawsuits followed. In 2015, Engineered Abrasives won a default judgment against American Machine and its principals for $714,814.04 and injunctive relief for stealing trade secrets and infringing trademarks. Five months later, Engineered Abrasives sued again; the parties reached a settlement. American Machine’s insurer would pay $75,000 to Engineered Abrasives, and a permanent injunction would be entered against slander by American Machine or its principals with a $250,000 liquidated damages clause accompanying the injunction. American Machine returned to court in the earlier case under FRCP 60(b), reporting that the settlement covered the earlier trademark judgment as well as the new case; Engineered Abrasives contended that it had only settled the new case. The written settlement did not mention a global settlement. The district court and Seventh Circuit agreed that the settlement’s release clause is unambiguous and releases all claims and liabilities between the parties, including the earlier default judgment. Under Illinois law, a court deciding whether the parties intended to include other claims in a release cannot consider extrinsic evidence unless the contract is ambiguous. View "Engineered Abrasives, Inc. v. American Machine Products & Service, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts