Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
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
Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc.
Cope, injured on a Kentucky job site, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The subcontractor who hired him for the project, CMC, is based in Southern Indiana, and had an insurance policy with AFICA. Schultheis Insurance Agency procured the policy for CMC, but failed to inform AFICA that CMC did business in Kentucky. AFICA sought a declaration that its policy does not cover Cope’s claim.The district court granted AFICA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain text of the policy is unambiguous: because CMC failed to notify AFICA until after Cope’s accident that it was working in Kentucky, AFICA is not liable for Cope’s workers’ compensation claim. The policy states : “If you have work on the effective date of this policy in any state [other than Indiana], coverage will not be afforded for that state unless we are notified within thirty days.” View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Construction Law, Insurance Law
Taizhou Yuanda Investment Group Co., Ltd. v. Z Outdoor Living, LLC
Taizhou, a Chinese manufacturer, entered into a Cooperation Agreement with Z Outdoor, a Wisconsin company owned by Casual Products: Taizhou would manufacture outdoor furniture and other related items for Z Outdoor to sell to customers. Z Outdoor eventually stopped paying Taizhou. The Cornings, on behalf of Z Outdoor, made false statements about future business, forthcoming payments, and causes for the delays. Taizhou continued to fill customer orders without receiving compensation. In 2018, AFG (a Wisconsin LLC also owned by Casual) started submitting purchase orders to Taizhou. AFG never signed the Cooperation Agreement. Taizhou filled the orders and sent AFG invoices. AFG eventually stopped paying Taizhou and made false statements regarding payment delays. The total due from Z Outdoor and AFG accrued to $14 million for purchase orders sent, 2017-2019.The district court entered a default judgment against the corporate defendants on Taizhou's contract claims but ruled against Taizhou on unjust enrichment, fraud, and conversion claims, finding the fraud and conversion claims barred by Wisconsin’s economic loss doctrine and q “mere repackaging of Taizhou’s ‘straightforward breach of contract claim.’” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Any fraud was interwoven with the Cooperation Agreement, so the economic loss doctrine applies. To the extent the damages amounted to lost profits or lost business, those are also economic losses under Wisconsin law. View "Taizhou Yuanda Investment Group Co., Ltd. v. Z Outdoor Living, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Commercial Law, Contracts
Duro, Inc. v. Walton
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that the terms of a settlement resulted in a de facto assignment of a corporation's theoretical legal malpractice claim to Amit Shah by using the corporation as his alter ego, holding that there was no error.In 2013, Shah and another minority shareholder of Duro, Inc. brought this action against Duro and its third shareholder, alleging money laundering and racketeering. In 2015, Plaintiffs added a shareholder derivative claim of legal malpractice, nominally on behalf of Duro, against a law firm and its attorneys (May Oberfell), who had represented Defendants in the case. In 2017, Plaintiffs settled their claims, preserving any claims Duro might have against May Oberfell. Shah subsequently took effective control of Duro and transferred all of Duro's assets except the legal malpractice claim. Thereafter, Shah, through Duro, filed a complaint against May Oberfell. The district court granted summary judgment for May Oberfell, concluding that the legal malpractice claim had undergone a "de facto" assignment, and therefore, the claim was barred under Indiana law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that May Oberfell was entitled to summary judgment. View "Duro, Inc. v. Walton" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Burke v. Boeing Co.
In this putative class action filed shortly after two fatal crashes of new Boeing 737 MAX airliners led to a worldwide grounding of those planes and a halt to production, resulting to a significant drop in the value of Boeing stock, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that there was no error.At issue was The Boeing Company's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and whether Boeing plan fiduciaries' delegation to an independent outside fiduciary the selection and management of investment options for the ESOP protected the company and company insiders from liability for the plan's continued offering of Boeing stock as an independent option for employees before and during the time when the Boeing stock dropped. Plaintiffs argued that Boeing's continuous concealment of material facts relating to the 737 MAX jets caused the price of the stock to be artificially inflated and that Defendants should disclosed the safety issues to the public immediately. The district court dismissed the action. The Seventh District affirmed, holding that the delegation of investment decisions to an independent fiduciary meant that Boeing did not act in an ERISA fiduciary capacity in connection with the continued investments in Boeing stock. View "Burke v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, ERISA, Labor & Employment Law
Arbitrage Event-Driven Fund v. Tribune Media Co.
Tribune and Sinclair announced an agreement to merge. Tribune abandoned the merger and sued Sinclair, accusing it of failing to comply with its contractual commitment to “use reasonable best efforts” to satisfy the demands of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the FCC, both of which could block the merger. Sinclair settled that suit for $60 million; the settlement disclaims liability. While the merger agreement was in place, investors bought and sold Tribune’s stock. In this class action investors alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by failing to disclose that Sinclair was “playing hardball with the regulators,” increasing the risk that the merger would be stymied.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The principal claims, which rest on the 1934 Act, failed under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Questionable statements, such as predictions that the merger was likely to proceed, were forward-looking and shielded from liability because Tribune expressly cautioned investors about the need for regulatory approval and the fact that the merging firms could prove unwilling to do what regulators sought, 15 U.S.C. 78u–5(c)(1)..With respect to the 1933 Act, the registration statement and prospectus through which the shares were offered stated all of the material facts. The relevant “hardball” actions occurred after the plaintiffs purchased shares. “Plaintiffs suppose that, during a major corporate transaction, managers’ thoughts must be an open book." No statute or regulation requires that. View "Arbitrage Event-Driven Fund v. Tribune Media Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Corporate Compliance, Securities Law
DM Trans, LLC v. Scott
Arrive and Tech, compete to help customers coordinate shipments. Six employees at Arrive departed for Tech despite restrictive covenants. Arrive sued the six individuals and Tech for injunctive relief under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b)(3), claiming irreparable harm because the individuals had breached their restrictive covenants and misappropriated trade secrets.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Arrive has an adequate remedy at law for each of its claimed injuries, and faces no irreparable harm. Even if its argument were not forfeited, lost opportunities cannot support a showing of irreparable harm under these circumstances. The type of harm Arrive alleges would ultimately translate into lost profits, albeit indirectly, as in the end there is no economic value to opportunities that are not converted to sales. Given the balance of harms, the district court was within its discretion to deny injunctive relief. The court noted that the expiration of the time period of a former employee’s restrictive covenants does not render moot an employer’s request for an injunction to prevent the former employee from violating those restrictive covenants. A court could still grant Arrive effectual relief in the form of an injunction, even though certain individual defendants no longer work for Traffic Tech. View "DM Trans, LLC v. Scott" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Landlord - Tenant
AFM Mattress Company, LLC v. Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co.
AFM ran 52 mattress stores in Indiana and Illinois. Motorists insured AFM with a policy covering loss of Business Income, Extra Expense, and loss due to actions of a Civil Authority. An exclusion applicable to all coverage stated: We will not pay for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the governors of Illinois and Indiana ordered the closure of businesses. AFM was forced to cease business activities at all of its stores. AFM submitted a claim for coverage. Motorists denied it.AFM sought a declaratory judgment in Illinois state court. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, based on the Virus Exclusion, rejecting a claim of “regulatory estoppel.” AFM claimed that Motorists misrepresented the Virus Exclusion to the Illinois Department of Insurance so that the regulators would approve it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Illinois does not recognize regulatory estoppel. The Virus Exclusion unambiguously precludes “civil authority” coverage. View "AFM Mattress Company, LLC v. Motorists Commercial Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Insurance Law
CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. v. Tractable Inc.
CCC and Tractable use algorithms and data generated by repair centers to provide estimates of the cost to repair damaged vehicles. Tractable dispatched its employee to obtain a license for CCC’s software. Using a false name, the employee purported to represent “JA,” a small, independent appraiser. CCC issued a license. The contract forbids assignment of the license without consent and represents that JA is acting on its own behalf, not as an agent for any third party, and forbids disassembly of the software or its incorporation into any other product. Tractable disassembled the software and incorporated some features into its own product. In CCC’s subsequent suit, Tractable moved for arbitration under the agreement between CCC and JA., arguing that “JA” is a name that Tractable uses for itself. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Tractable is not a party to the agreement. CCC could not have discovered that Tractable uses the name “JA.” Contractual meaning reflects words and signs exchanged between the negotiators, not unilateral, confidential beliefs. If a misrepresentation as to the character or essential terms of a proposed contract induces conduct that appears to be a manifestation of assent by one who neither knows nor has reasonable opportunity to know of the character or essential terms of the proposed contract, his conduct is not effective as a manifestation of assent.. The identity of CCC’s trading partner was a vital element of the deal. View "CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. v. Tractable Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Business Law, Contracts