Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Healthcare providers often do not purchase medical devices directly from the manufacturer; they join group purchasing organizations (GPOs), which negotiate prices with manufacturers. The provider chooses a distributor to deliver the product. The distributor enters into contracts with the provider and the manufacturer, incorporating the price and other terms that the GPO negotiated, plus a markup for the distributor. A GPO negotiated with Becton (a manufacturer) on the plaintiff-providers’ behalf; a distributor delivered the devices. Had Becton acted alone, selling its products to an independent distributor, which then sold them to a provider, the Supreme Court’s 1977 “Illinois Brick” rule would bar the provider from suing Becton for any alleged monopoly overcharges. Only buyers who purchased products directly from the antitrust violator have a claim for treble damages. The plaintiffs alleged that Becton, the GPOs, and the distributors were in a conspiracy and engaged in various anti-competitive measures, including exclusive-dealing and penalty provisions. Under Brick's conspiracy exception, when a monopolist enters into a conspiracy with its distributors “the first buyer from a conspirator is the right party to sue.” The district court found the conspiracy rule inapplicable because this case did not involve vertical price-fixing. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The relationship between the buyer and the seller, not the nature of the alleged anticompetitive conduct, governs whether the buyer may sue under the antitrust laws. Remand was required because the Providers have failed adequately to allege the necessary conspiracy. View "Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Becton Dickinson & Co." on Justia Law

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Winemaster founded PSI in 1985 and served as Chairman, President, and CEO. In 2011, PSI became a publicly-traded company. Winemaster and his brother were PSI’s majority shareholders. The company’s early SEC filings noted that PSI’s “internal controls over financial reporting” suffered from “material weakness.” In 2013, PSI’s per-share price rocketed from $16.18 to $75.10. In 2015, PSI began making disclosures; its auditor resigned, its share price plummeted, and the government began investigating. PSI had improperly recognized millions of dollars in revenue. Winemaster resigned. As a result of a purchase agreement and resignations, six of PSI’s seven current directors were unaffiliated with the company during the period of alleged misconduct. Winemaster was charged with criminal fraud. Lawsuits followed, including this derivative complaint on behalf of PSI, alleging fiduciary breach and unjust enrichment against certain officers and directors. The parties executed a settlement, with a monetary award of $1.875 million from PSI’s insurers; plaintiffs' counsel would get half. The balance was earmarked for expenses related to the government’s investigations. The settlement required the formal enactment of 17 corporate governance reforms. The plaintiffs agreed to a release against the individual defendants, including Winemaster. The court granted preliminary approval. In the meantime, state derivative actions were dismissed as duplicative. In federal court, the state plaintiff unsuccessfully objected to Winemaster's release, argued that the monetary component was insufficient, and claimed that the proposed governance reforms lacked substance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed final approval. The district court adequately considered the propriety of the settlement’s terms. View "McFadden v. Dorvit" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs (Sharif Pharmacy, J&S) were members of the Prime pharmacy network, which is owned, in part, by Blue Cross Blue Shield. Under Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans, many patients had significant financial incentives to buy their prescription drugs from pharmacies within the network. Prime terminated both plaintiffs from the network after audits uncovered invoicing irregularities. The plaintiffs claimed that their terminations from the Prime network violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1 and 2. Three customers joined the suit, having had to switch to different, less convenient pharmacies. The plaintiffs alleged that the audits were pretextual and that Prime really terminated their participation in its network to get rid of competition with Walgreens, with whom it had entered a joint venture. Prime sent letters to both pharmacies’ customers saying that Sharif and J&S would no longer accept their insurance and recommending that customers have their prescriptions filled at a nearby Walgreens. Prime also retained funds from both pharmacies as a result of the audits. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissals of the cases by two district courts. The individual plaintiffs lacked standing. The pharmacy could not identify an appropriate geographic market where a defendant had or threatened to have monopoly power. View "Sharif Pharmacy Inc. v. Prime Therapeutics LLC" on Justia Law

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In February 2010, AMS sent a fax advertisement to 11,422 different numbers from a recently acquired customer list. PHI filed a putative class action suit asserting that those faxes violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court subsequently certified the proposed class, granted PHI’s motion for summary judgment on liability against AMS and its CEO, entered a nearly $6 million judgment, and approved a distribution plan for that judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. AMS conceded that the fax in question was an advertisement that lacked any kind of disclaimer explaining how to opt-out of future faxes. AMS did not meet its burden of proving that it had prior express invitation or permission to send faxes; even if the company from which it obtained the customer list had express permission to send faxes, that permission is not transferrable under the TCPA. View "Physicians Healthsource, Inc. v. A-S Medication Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Viamedia sued Comcast under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2, for using its monopoly power in one service market (Interconnect) to exclude competition and gain monopoly power in another service market (advertising representation) in the Chicago, Detroit, and Hartford geographic markets. Interconnect services are cooperative selling arrangements for advertising through an “Interconnect” that enables retail cable television service providers to sell advertising targeted efficiently at regional audiences. Advertising representation services assist those providers with the sale and delivery of national, regional, and local advertising slots. Viamedia’s evidence indicated Comcast used its monopoly power over the Interconnect to force its smaller retail cable television competitors to stop doing business with Viamedia; Viamedia’s customers for advertising representation (Comcast’s retail cable competitors) switched to Comcast because Comcast presented a choice: either start buying advertising representation services from us and regain access to the Interconnect or keep buying services from Viamedia and stay cut off from the Interconnect they needed to compete effectively. The strategy cost Comcast millions of dollars in the short run but eventually gave it monopoly power in these local markets for advertising representation services. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Viamedia’s case. Giving Viamedia the benefit of its allegations and evidence, this is not a case in which Section 2 is being misused to protect weaker competitors rather than competition more generally. Viamedia has also adequately stated a claim that Comcast has unlawfully refused to deal with Viamedia and any cable competitor that bought advertising representation from Viamedia. View "Viamedia, Inc. v. Comcast Corp." on Justia Law

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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act bars certain uses of an “automatic telephone dialing system,” which it defines as equipment with the capacity “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” as well as the capacity to dial those numbers AT&T’s “Customer Rules Feedback Tool,” a device that sends surveys to customers who have interacted with AT&T’s customer service department, exclusively dials numbers stored in a customer database. AT&T sent unwanted automated text messages to Gadelhak. Gadelhak brought a putative class action under the Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1). The district court held and the Seventh Circuit affirmed that AT&T’s system did not qualify as an “automatic telephone dialing system.” While characterizing the Act as a grammatical nightmare, the court concluded that the phrase “using a random or sequential number generator” modifies both “store” and “produce.” AT&T’s system neither stores nor produces numbers using a random or sequential number generator. View "Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Grayson does business under the name Gire Roofing. Grayson and Edwin Gire were indicted for visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1546 and harboring and employing unauthorized aliens, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii). On paper, Gire had no relationship to Grayson as a corporate entity. He was not a stockholder, officer, or an employee. He managed the roofing (Grayson’s sole business), as he had under the Gire Roofing name for more than 20 years. The corporate papers identified Grayson’s president and sole stockholder as Young, Gire’s girlfriend. Gire, his attorney, and the government all represented to the district court that Gire was Grayson’s president. The court permitted Gire to plead guilty on his and Grayson’s behalf. Joint counsel represented both defendants during a trial that resulted in their convictions and a finding that Grayson’s headquarters was forfeitable. Despite obtaining separate counsel before sentencing, neither Grayson nor Young ever complained about Gire’s or prior counsel’s representations. Neither did Grayson object to the indictment, the plea colloquy, or the finding that Grayson had used its headquarters for harboring unauthorized aliens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Grayson identified numerous potential errors in the proceedings none are cause for reversal. Grayson has not shown that it was deprived of any right to effective assistance of counsel that it may have had and has not demonstrated that the court plainly erred in accepting the guilty plea. The evidence is sufficient to hold Grayson vicariously liable for Gire’s crimes. View "United States v. Grayson Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bentley, the owner of Trucking, rear-ended the Kolchinskys’ car while driving a tractor-trailer through Illinois. The Kolchinskys were severely injured. Bentley's deliveries had been arranged by WD, which instructed Bentley to transport milk from Indiana to its destination. His route was up to him. Trucking’s agreement with WD provided that Bentley was an independent contractor. When Trucking accepted a job from WD, it agreed to call the broker daily with a status update, protect the freight, notify the broker of any damage, and inform the broker of delivery. Tucking was responsible for determining delivery times; WD reserved the right to withhold any resulting damages. The agreement required Trucking to pay its employees and provide and maintain its own tractor, fuel, insurance, licenses, and permits. The Kolchinskys sued Bentley; citing theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability, the Kolchinskys also sued Trucking and WD The judge granted the defendants judgment, concluding that the driver was an independent contractor so the Kolchinskys could not hold the companies responsible for his alleged negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Courts applying Illinois law consistently have declined to find an agency relationship when a company hires an independent driver to deliver a load to designated persons at designated hours but does not reserve the right to control the manner of delivery. WD had no part in the transaction leading to Bentley’s fateful trip View "Kolchinsky v. Western Dairy Transport, LLC" on Justia Law

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T-Mobile customers can participate in “T-Mobile Tuesdays,” a promotional service, offering free items and discounts. Customers who no longer wish to receive marketing communications may opt-out by contacting T-Mobile’s customer service. T-Mobile user Warciak received a text message: This T-Mobile Tuesday, score a free 6” Oven Roasted Chicken sub at SUBWAY, just for being w/ T-Mobile. Ltd supply. Get app for details. The message came from T-Mobile. Warciak was not charged for the text. Warciak sued Subway claiming Subway engaged in a common-law agency relationship with T-Mobile, and that Subway’s conduct violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). T-Mobile is not included in the lawsuit. The court dismissed the complaint as lacking sufficient support for claims of actual and apparent authority: control over the timing, content, or recipients of the text message. The court also found that the wireless carrier exemption applied so that no underlying TCPA violation exists ( 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(2)(C)). Prior written consent is not required for calls to a wireless customer by his wireless carrier if the customer is not charged. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The only alleged conduct by Subway is its contractual relationship with T-Mobile. Warciak’s complaint lacks sufficient facts showing Subway manifested to the public that T-Mobile was its agent. He relied on T-Mobile’s conduct. Statements by an agent are insufficient to create apparent authority without also tracing the statements to a principal’s manifestations or control. View "Warciak v. Subway Restaurants, Inc." on Justia Law

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A New York owner of a fast-food property in Illinois, which was rented by an Arizona tenant, sold the property to buyers in California (Abellan). The tenant declared bankruptcy and never paid rent to its new landlord. Abellan sued. A jury found the purchase agreement rescindable for mutual mistake and the sellers liable for fraud and breach of contract and awarded damages of more than $2 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The sellers warranted to Abellan that there was “no default by Seller, or to Seller’s knowledge ... under the Lease.” A critical provision of the lease required the tenant to operate its restaurant business continuously. the jury had sufficient evidence to find a breach of the no-default warranty “to Seller’s knowledge” and Abellan reasonably relied on the no-default warranty. The court rejected claims of waiver and that the jury’s findings on damages and reliance were contrary to the weight of the evidence. View "Abellan v. Lavelo Property Management, LLC" on Justia Law