Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland v. TRG Venture Two, LLC
Kimball entered annexation agreements with Illinois municipalities and contracted separately with Fidelity as a surety to issue bonds securing performance on those obligations. Fidelity required Kimball to indemnify it. In 2008, Kimball filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief before it satisfied its development obligations. The municipalities and Fidelity filed proofs of claim.Fidelity voted in favor of Kimball's reorganization plan. The confirmation order released the claims of every party that voted for the plan; an injunction prohibited those entities from seeking payment on their claims. Kimball’s assets, “free and clear of any and all liens, claims, encumbrances, and interests,” went into a trust that sold its development interests to TRG. The bankruptcy court later allowed the municipalities to sue Kimball to establish liability in order to recover the proceeds of the performance bonds.The municipalities sued Fidelity in state court to collect on the bonds. Fidelity interpleaded TRG. TRG asked the bankruptcy court to enforce the Kimball plan confirmation order and injunction against Fidelity and alleged “knowing and intentional violation of the confirmation order.” The bankruptcy court held Fidelity in contempt of that order, concluded that the order extinguished Kimball’s duty to indemnify Fidelity, and awarded TRG $9.5 million in sanctions, The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed. The bankruptcy court undertook a careful and detailed analysis in finding Fidelity in contempt and assessing sanctions based on TRG's costs. There was no legal or factual error. View "Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland v. TRG Venture Two, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Bankruptcy, Business Law
Creation Supply, Inc. v. Hahn
Selective denied coverage of Creation's insurance claim. Creation sued for breach of contract and won. Creation then pursued costs and fees for Selective’s vexatious and unreasonable delay under the Illinois Insurance Code, 215 ILCS 5/155. The Seventh Circuit held that the remedy was unavailable. Creation then sued Selective’s in-house lawyer, the lawyer’s supervisor, and its outside counsel, alleging they tortiously interfered with the contract between Selective and Creation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The suits were an attempt at double recovery—one from the principal and one from its agents. The corporate form limits, not doubles, liability. In Illinois, tortious interference requires some sort of interloper and precludes applying the economic loss doctrine to claims for tortious interference. Illinois provides a corporation’s agents with a conditional privilege, rooted in the business judgment rule, from tortious interference suits. When an agent acts in the corporation’s interests, she is protected from liability for interfering in her principal’s contractual affairs. When an agent interferes with a contract, she is presumed to do so for the company’s benefit. Under Illinois law, overcoming the privilege was Creation’s burden to plead, and its failure to do so with more than mere conclusory allegations dooms its suit. View "Creation Supply, Inc. v. Hahn" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Insurance Law, Personal Injury
National Labor Relations Board v. Haven Salon + Spa, Inc
In May 2020 Rehm expressed concern that Haven was not doing enough to protect her and other employees from COVID. Dillett, Haven’s Director of Operations and co-owner, did not appreciate Rehm’s suggestions. Rehm sent a staff-wide email criticizing Dillett’s handling of COVID health risks. Dillett fired her. After Rehm complained to the NLRB, Dillett threatened legal action. An ALJ found that Haven had unlawfully terminated and threatened Rehm, National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1). The Board ordered Haven to compensate Rehm for lost pay and expenses, offer to rehire her, notify her that it had removed references to her unlawful termination from her employee file, post notices of employee rights, and file a sworn certification of compliance.The Seventh Circuit summarily enforced that order in September 2021. Haven did not comply. In December 2022, the Seventh Circuit directed Haven to respond to the Board’s contempt petition. Haven disregarded a subsequent “show cause” order. The Seventh Circuit entered a contempt order, requiring Haven to pay a fine of $1,000, plus a fine of $150 per day for every day of the next week that Haven fails to comply, beginning on February 28, 2023. The daily fine will increase by $100 each day that Haven fails to comply beyond the next week. The court will forgive the fines if Haven files a sworn statement within seven days demonstrating full compliance. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Haven Salon + Spa, Inc" on Justia Law
Ross v. First Financial Corporate Services, Inc.
Ross worked as a sales representative for First Financial until 2018. Ross sued First Financial and two of its senior executives for sales commissions he claimed he was owed. Under the terms of his employment contract, Ross could earn a commission both when a customer first leased an item from First Financial and then at the end of a lease term, if the customer either extended the lease or purchased the equipment outright. In early 2017, First Financial acted to reduce future commission rates. Ross argued that First Financial breached his contract by applying the new, lower commission rates to end-of-lease transactions that occurred after the change took effect if the leases originally began before the change.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The company’s commission payments to Ross were correct because commissions on end-of-lease transactions are not earned until the customer actually agrees to and pays for the new transactions. Although Ross was reluctant to accept the new plan, he still accepted it by continuing to work for First Financial under its terms. View "Ross v. First Financial Corporate Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Labor & Employment Law
Joy Global Inc. v. Columbia Casualty Co.
Joy Global and Komatsu agreed to merge. Joy sent its investors disclosures required under the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78n. Subsequent suits contended that Joy violated the Act by not disclosing some internal projections of Joy’s future growth that could have been used to negotiate a higher price, rendering the proxy statements fraudulent, and that Joy’s directors violated their state law duties by not maximizing the price for the shareholders. The suits settled for $21 million.The district court held that the $21 million loss is not covered by insurance. The policies do not require indemnification for “any amount of any judgment or settlement of any Inadequate Consideration Claim other than Defense Costs.” An “inadequate consideration claim” is that part of any Claim alleging that the price or consideration paid or proposed to be paid for the acquisition or completion of the acquisition of all or substantially all the ownership interest in or assets of an entity is inadequate.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The suits assert the wrongful act of failing to disclose documents that could have been used to seek a higher price and are within the definition of “inadequate consideration claim.” The claims do not identify any false or deficient disclosures about anything other than the price. The only objection to this merger was that Joy should have held out for more money, and that revealing this would have induced the investors to vote “no.” View "Joy Global Inc. v. Columbia Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Insurance Law, Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities Law
Daneshrad v. Trean Group, LLC
Traders set up accounts with Trean, a Chicago Mercantile Exchange introducing broker, managing the customer side of the futures-trading business. Stone handled the trading side. The traders engaged in naked trading—speculating rather than hedging. Stone set a high margin accordingly. Stone was a principal in all trades and, with the clearing house bore, the immediate economic risk; Trean guaranteed Stone’s positions and shared in its commissions. The market did not cooperate. Trean learned that the traders had not met Stone’s margin call and were not cooperating with Stone. Trean told the traders that it would close their accounts but that they were free to deal directly with Stone. Stone thereafter prohibited any trades that would increase the holdings’ net risk. The traders liquidated. Of the $1,020,000 with which they began, they lost $548,000.The traders sued, contending that their contract with Trean did not allow it to cease dealing with them for the reason given and that Trean’s decision led Stone to impose unacceptable conditions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Trean. Regardless of whether Trean was entitled to end its dealings with the traders, no reasonable jury could find that Trean injured them. Trean’s decision did not affect the value of their futures contracts; they did not have a greater loss than they would have by moving their accounts to a different introducing broker and retaining Stone. View "Daneshrad v. Trean Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Securities Law
United States v. Filer
Barsanti was delinquent on $1.1 million of senior secured debt it owed to BMO Harris Bank. Barsanti’s owner, Kelly, hired attorney Filer and Gereg, a financing consultant. After negotiations with BMO failed, Filer introduced Gereg to BMO as a person interested in purchasing Barsanti’s debt. Filer created a new company, BWC, to purchase the loans. BWC purchased the loans from BMO for $575,000, paid primarily with Barsanti’s accounts receivable. Barsanti also owed $370,000 in delinquent benefit payments to the Union Trust Fund. Filer, Kelly, and Gereg used BWC’s senior lien to obtain a state court judgment against Barsanti that allowed them to transfer Barsanti’s assets beyond the reach of the Union Fund, using backdated documents to put confession-of-judgment clauses into the loan documents and incorrectly claiming that Barsanti owed BWC $1.58 million. Filer then obtained a court order transferring Barsanti’s assets to BWC, which then transferred the assets to Millwork, another new entity, which continued Barsanti’s business after the Illinois Secretary of State dissolved Barsanti for unpaid taxes. Gereg was Millwork's nominal owner in filings with the Indiana Secretary of State. Barsanti filed for bankruptcy. Filer instructed others not to produce certain documents to the bankruptcy trustee.After a jury convicted Filer of wire fraud 18 U.S.C. 1343., the district court granted his motions for a judgment of acquittal. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdicts. View "United States v. Filer" on Justia Law
KAP Holdings, LLC v. Mar-Cone Appliance Parts Co.
In 2006, Price approached Marcone about using e-commerce in the appliance parts industry. Price and Marcone entered into a non-disclosure agreement while evaluating the concept, but no partnership resulted. Price then created PartScription. Both companies sell appliance replacement parts online. In 2017, Price restarted talks with Marcone. In 2018, Marcone’s CEO proposed that PartScription and Marcone form a “50-50” partnership. Price accepted, and they shook hands on the idea. Price drafted a term sheet for the contemplated partnership. The first line sheet states “PartScription and Marcone (PSM) have agreed to form a partnership/joint venture to serve the independent hardware industry.” Negotiations continued. During a conference call, Marcone representatives purportedly “stated that they approved of the terms,” and offered one change regarding a joint bank account. Days later Price sent a follow-up email saying that his notes indicated “Marcone ha[d] approved the terms outlined in the draft PSM term sheet” and asking whether they needed to memorialize the agreement. No further memorialization took place. Marcone's representatives became unresponsive.In 2021, PartScription filed suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. PartScription’s complaint fails to plausibly allege a valid contract; any amendment would be futile. The only documentation speaks of general goals— not obligations—and fails to identify definite and certain binding terms. View "KAP Holdings, LLC v. Mar-Cone Appliance Parts Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Commercial Law, Contracts
Huston v. Hearst Communications, Inc.
Huston, a Good Housekeeping magazine subscriber, filed a putative class action alleging that media conglomerate, Hearst, offered to sell and sold mailing lists containing her, and 9.1 million other subscribers’, identifying information. Huston sought statutory damages under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (IRPA) and an injunction requiring Hearst to obtain prior written consent before selling its subscribers’ information.The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. To establish an IRPA violation, the plaintiff must allege an appropriation of the plaintiff’s identity, without the plaintiff’s written consent, and for the defendant’s commercial purpose. IRPA prohibits the use or holding out of a person’s identifying information to offer to sell or sell a product, piece of merchandise, good, or service; it contemplates a use or holding out of an individual’s identity with the aim of effectuating a sale. Any use or holding out must either accompany an offer to sell or precede the sale, but it cannot follow the sale. Huston failed to allege that Hearst used or held out her identity to effectuate the sale of the mailing lists or her Good Housekeeping subscription. View "Huston v. Hearst Communications, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Consumer Law
Foster v. PNC Bank, National Association
In 2004, Foster, a real estate investor, purchased Florida property, with a $1.1 million loan secured by a PNC mortgage. Foster and PNC had multiple disputes. PNC acquired force‐placed insurance. While the parties disputed that issue, Foster only made payments in the amount originally specified in a 2010 modification although the payments had increased as a result of the force‐placed insurance policies. In 2012, PNC began returning Foster’s payments as incomplete payments. As of May 2019, PNC claimed Foster owed more than $1.75 million. PNC reported delinquent payments to credit agencies; Foster’s credit score dropped.Foster’s lawsuit included a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for PNC’s failure to investigate the two credit reporting disputes; a breach of contract claim regarding the force‐placed insurance policies; a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing claim for the insurance; and a breach of fiduciary duty claim for the alleged mishandling of the escrow account. PNC counterclaimed to seek judgment on the loan. After determining that Foster’s affidavit was conclusory and speculative as to proof of insurance and his loan payments and that his evidence of damages was too general and conclusory, the district court granted PNC judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed but found that the FCRA claim should be dismissed for lack of standing. Foster did not establish an injury-in-fact fairly traceable to PNC’s conduct. View "Foster v. PNC Bank, National Association" on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, Business Law, Real Estate & Property Law