Articles Posted in Business Law

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A “pickle line” processes hot rolled steel coil through acid tanks to remove impurities. In 2006, Toll purchased a used pickle line, in need of repair. Kastalon had previously serviced the machine. In 2008, Kastalon agreed to move and store the machine, at no cost, until Toll could order reconditioning. Both parties believed that Toll would move the equipment within months; they did not discuss a specific timeframe. For two years, Kastalon stored the equipment indoors. Toll negotiated with various companies, to run or sell the equipment, but was not in communication with Kastalon. Kastalon eventually greased and wrapped the equipment before moving it to outside storage under tarps. Toll employees with whom Kastalon had communicated were laid off. Kastalon thought that Toll had gone out of business and that the equipment had been abandoned. Kastalon had the equipment scrapped, without inspecting it, and received $6,380.80. In June 2011, Toll requested a price for reconditioning and learned that they had been scrapped. Toll obtained quotes for replacement: the lowest was about $416,655. Toll sued. The Seventh Circuit reversed, in part, summary judgment entered in favor of Kastalon. A reasonable jury could conclude that Toll’s prolonged silence, alone, did not constitute unambiguous evidence of intent to abandon. The court did not consider whether Kastalon had an extra-contractual duty not to dispose of the equipment or Kastalon’s evidence that the loss was not due to Kastalon’s failure to exercise reasonable care. Affirming rejection of a contract claim, the court stated the parties’ oral agreement was not sufficiently definite as to duration. View "Toll Processing Services, LLC v. Kastalon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Verfuerth, the founder and former CEO of Orion, had disputes with Orion’s board of directors, involving outside counsel's billing practices, potential patent infringement, potential conflicts of interests involving a board member, violations of internal company policy, such as consumption of alcohol at an informal meeting, the board’s handling of a defamation suit by a former employee, and the fact that the chairman of Orion’s audit committee allowed his CPA license to expire. The board ignored his advice to disclose those matters to stockholders. Orion removed Verfuerth as CEO, citing high rates of management turnover. The board conditionally offered Verfuerth emeritus status. Verfeurth declined. The parties were unable to negotiate his severance package. The board fired him for cause, citing misappropriation of company funds in connection with his divorce, disparagement of the new CEO, and attempts to form a dissident shareholder group. Verfuerth filed suit, claiming that his complaints to the board were “whistleblowing” and that, by firing him, Orion violated the Sarbanes‐Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(a), and the Dodd‐Frank Act, 15 U.S.C. 78u‐6.e. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Orion. An executive who advises board members to disclose a fact that the board already knows about has not “provide[d] information” about fraud.. Nothing in any federal statute prevents a company from firing its executives over differences of opinion. View "Verfuerth v. Orion Energy Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1995, Peoria signed a lease that allowed RTC to construct and operate a gas conversion project at the city’s landfill, providing that when the lease terminated, the city had an absolute right to retain, at no cost, the “structures” and “below‐grade installations and/or improvements” that RTC installed. Years later, RTC entered bankruptcy proceedings. Banco provided RTC with postpetition financing secured with liens and security interests in effectively all of RTC’s assets. RTC defaulted. Litigation ensued. The city notified RTC that it was terminating the lease and would retain the structures and installations. After RTC stopped operating the gas conversion project, Peoria modified the system to comply with environmental regulations for methane and other landfill gasses and continued to use the property. Banco sued, alleging unjust enrichment and arguing that it had a better claim to the property because its loan was secured by a lien on all of RTC’s assets and the bankruptcy court had given its loan “super-priority” status. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. No matter the priority of its claim to RTC’s assets, Banco has no claim to Peoria’s assets. By the terms of the lease between RTC and the city, the disputed structures and installations are city property. The lease gave RTC no post‐termination property interest in that property. View "Banco Panamericano, Incorporat v. City of Peoria, Illinois" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Toulon applied for Continental’s long-term care insurance policy. Continental provided a Long-Term Care Insurance Personal Worksheet to help Toulon determine whether the policy would work for her, given her financial circumstances. The Worksheet discussed Continental’s right to increase premiums and how such increases had previously been applied. Toulon did not fill out the Worksheet but signed and submitted it with her application. Toulon’s Policy stated that although Continental could not cancel the Policy if each premium was paid on time, Continental could change the premium rates. There was a rider, stating that premiums would not be increased during the first 10 years after the coverage date. In September 2013, Continental raised Toulon’s premiums by 76.5%. Toulon sued, on behalf of herself and a purported class. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that Toulon failed to state claims for fraudulent misrepresentation because she did not identify a false statement or for fraudulent omission because Continental did not owe Toulon a duty to disclose. The court also properly dismissed Toulon’s claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act (ICFA) because she did not identify a deceptive practice, a material omission, or an unfair practice. The unjust enrichment claim failed because claims of fraud and statutory violation, upon which Toulon's unjust enrichment claim was based, were legally insufficient and an express contract governed the parties’ relationship. View "Toulon v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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SGA Pharm Lab supplied ADM Alliance Nutrition with a product used to make medicated animal feed. The parties ended their relationship by signing a termination agreement. ADM later came to believe that SGA had made false representations concerning the potency of the product while SGA was supplying it to ADM. ADM brought breach of contract and fraud claims against SGA and its president. The district court concluded that ADM had released the claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed The termination agreement stated ADM released SGA and its officers from any and all claims, whether known or unknown, so by its terms the release includes claims for breach of contract and fraud. The agreement also stated that it superseded all prior understandings and that no representations were made to induce the other party to enter into the agreement other than those it contained. The agreement was between sophisticated commercial parties View "ADM Alliance Nutrition, Inc. v. SGA Pharm Lab, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Hyatt and Shen Zhen entered into an agreement providing that Shen Zhen would renovate a Los Angeles hotel and operate it using Hyatt’s business methods and trademarks. Two years later Hyatt declared that Shen Zhen was in breach. An arbitrator concluded that Shen Zhen owes Hyatt $7.7 million in damages plus$1.3 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order of enforcement, upholding the arbitrator’s refusal to issue a subpoena to Cadwalader, who represented Shen Zhen during the contract negotiations. The dispute arose two years after Cadwalader stopped working for Shen Zhen. The contract has an integration clause that forecloses resort to the negotiating history as an interpretive tool. The arbitrator also declined to disqualify Hyatt’s law firm, which Cadwalader joined about three years after the contract was signed, finding that the firm’s ethics screen ensured that no confidential information would reach Hyatt's lawyers. The court also rejected an argument that the award disregarded federal and state franchise law and should be set aside under 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(4), which covers situations in which “the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.” View "Hyatt Franchising, L.L.C. v. Shen Zhen New World I, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bio‐Systems produced biodegradation products that use bacteria to break down waste. Customers often required certificates of analysis, so Bio‐Systems counted the bacteria in a product before its sale. Betco purchased Bio‐Systems, after visiting Bio‐Systems’s sites, speaking with personnel, and examining financial information. Betco paid Peacock $5 million and placed $500,000 in escrow, to be released two years after closing if Belco had not identified any problems. Peacock continued to run the plant. Betco instructed him to focus on sales and profits. Betco knew before closing that the bacteria yields were inconsistent at the plant; it learned within a year of closing that some products were being shipped with below‐specification bacteria counts. Betco nonetheless released the escrow early in exchange for a discount. Betco subsequently discovered that certificates of analysis were being falsified. Betco sued Peacock. The court dismissed negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract claims as time‐barred by the Agreement, and found that Betco failed to prove violation of the duty of good faith and hadn’t shown any cognizable injury from the alleged violation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of all of Betco’s claims. When Betco purchased Bio‐Systems, it expected profitability and not to face claims for shipping products with intentionally falsified certificates; it received that. Betco did not expect that it was purchasing flawless processes. Under Wisconsin law, the inquiry is not whether Betco paid the appropriate price but whether Betco received the benefits that it expected. View "Betco Corp., Ltd. v. Peacock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Thirteen Illinois municipalities claimed that the online travel agencies (OTAs), including Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity, have withheld money owed to them under their local hotel tax ordinances. The OTAs operate their online travel websites under the “merchant model”; customers pay an OTA directly to reserve rooms at hotels the OTA has contracted with. The participating hotels set a room rental rate. The OTA charges the customer a price that includes that rate, the estimated tax owed to the municipality, and additional charges for the OTA’s services. After the customer’s stay, the hotel invoices the OTA for the room rate and taxes and remits the taxes collected to the municipality. Contracts between hotels and the OTAs confirm that the OTAs do not actually buy, and never acquire the right to enter or grant possession of, hotel rooms. The municipalities claim that OTAs do not remit taxes on the full price that customers pay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the OTAs. None of the municipal ordinances place a duty on the OTAs to collect or remit the taxes, so the municipalities have no recourse against the OTAs View "Village of Bedford Park v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law

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Doug Miller and his son signed a broad noncompetition agreement when Doug sold his fuel-additives business, E.T., in 2011. Doug sold his other company, Petroleum Solutions, to Kuhns about a year later. E.T.’s new owners sued the Millers for breaching the noncompete by providing assistance to Kuhns as he learned the Petroleum Solutions business. The Millers claimed the noncompete was overbroad and unenforceable and that their assistance to Kuhns came at a time when Petroleum Solutions was E.T.’s distributor, not its competitor. When E.T. severed its relationship with Petroleum Solutions in 2012, Doug told Kuhns that the noncompetition agreement prevented further help and ceased assisting him. On summary judgment, the district judge held that the noncompetition agreement was enforceable but the Millers did not breach it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the contract was not overbroad, but that the Millers did not breach it. A company’s distributor is not its competitor, so the Millers’ assistance to Kuhns in 2012 was "fair game." The contract, read reasonably, did not require Doug to break his preexisting lease with Kuhns. View "E.T. Products, LLC v. D.E. Miller Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Rooftops sells tickets to view Cubs games and other events at Wrigley Field from the roofs of buildings it controls. Chicago has an ordinance allowing the rooftop businesses. Before the 2002 season, the Cubs installed a windscreen above the outfield bleachers, obstructing the views from rooftop businesses and sued Rooftops, claiming misappropriation of Cubs’ property by charging fees to watch games.The parties settled by entering into the License Agreement running through 2023. Rooftops agreed to pay the Cubs 17% of their gross revenues in exchange for views into Wrigley Field. The Agreement contemplated Wrigley Field's expansion. In 2013, the Cubs released a mock‐up of its proposed renovation, showing that rooftop businesses would be largely blocked by the construction. The city approved the plan over objections. Rooftops claimed that Cubs’ representatives used the threat of blocking views and other “strong-arm tactics” as leverage to force a sale, and sued, alleging: attempted monopolization; false and misleading commercial representations, defamation, false light, and breach of the non‐disparagement provision; and breach of contract. The court denied Rooftops’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed its dismissal of monopolization claims because Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption applies; Rooftops failed to establish a plausible relevant market; and the Cubs cannot be limited by antitrust law from distributing their own product. The contract's plain language did not limit expansions to Wrigley Field's seating capacity. View "Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC" on Justia Law