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

Articles Posted in International Trade
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Motorola and its foreign subsidiaries buy LCD panels and incorporate them into cellphones. They alleged that foreign LCD panel manufacturers violated section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, by fixing prices. Only about one percent of the panels were bought by Motorola in the U.S. The other 99 percent were bought by, paid for, and delivered to foreign subsidiaries; 42 percent of the panels were bought by subsidiaries and incorporated into products that were shipped to Motorola in the U.S. for resale. The other 57 percent were incorporated into products that were sold abroad and never became U.S. domestic commerce, subject to the Sherman Act. The district judge ruled that Motorola’s claim regarding the 42 percent was barred by 15 U.S.C. 6a(1)(A): the Act “shall not apply to conduct involving trade or commerce (other than import trade or import commerce) with foreign nations unless such conduct has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on trade or commerce which is not trade or commerce with foreign nations, or on import trade or import commerce with foreign nations.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that rampant extraterritorial application of U.S. law “creates a serious risk of interference with a foreign nation’s ability independently to regulate its own commercial affairs.” View "Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp." on Justia Law

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A number of suits have challenged the accuracy of the warning label on Pradaxa, a prescription blood-thinning drug manufactured by Boehringer. The litigation is in the discovery stage. The district judge presiding over the litigation imposed sanctions on Boehringer for discovery abuse. Boehringer sought a writ of mandamus quashing the sanctions, which included fines, totaling almost $1 million and also ordered that plaintiffs’ depositions of 13 Boehringer employees, all of whom work in Germany be conducted at “a place convenient to the [plaintiffs] and [to] the defendants’ [Boehringer’s] United States counsel,” presumably in the United States. The parties had previously agreed to Amsterdam as the location. The Seventh Circuit rescinded the order with respect to the depositions but otherwise denied mandamus. View "Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm. v. Herndon" on Justia Law

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In 2004 GEA, a German company, agreed to sell a subsidiary, DNK, to Flex‐N‐Gate, a U.S. manufacturer for €430 million. The contract required arbitration of all disputes in Germany. The sale did not close. GEA initiated arbitration before the Arbitral Tribunal of the German Institution of Arbitration. The arbitration was pending in 2009 when GEA filed suit in an Illinois federal district court, against Flex‐N‐Gate and its CEO, Khan, alleging that the defendants had fraudulently induced it to enter into the contract; that Khan stripped the company of assets so that it would be unable to pay any arbitration award; and that Khan was Flex‐N‐Gate’s alter ego. GEA then asked the district judge to stay proceedings, including discovery. The judge declined to stay discovery. GEA filed a notice of appeal after the German arbitration panel awarded GEA damages and costs totaling $293.3 million. The Seventh Circuit dismissed GEA’s appeal as moot, but the German Higher Regional Court in vacated the arbitration award. GEA renewed its motion. The district judge again denied the stay, stating that he was unsure how the arbitration would affect the case before him and didn’t want to wait to find out. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district judge then imposed a stay, which it later lifted for the limited purpose of allowing Khan to conduct discovery aimed at preserving evidence that might be germane to GEA’s claims against him in the district court suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first holding that it had appellate jurisdiction.View "GEA Group AG v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin manufacturer of building management systems and HVAC equipment, and Edman Controls entered into an agreement giving Edman exclusive rights to distribute Johnson’s products in Panama. In 2009, Johnson breached the agreement by attempting to sell its products directly to Panamanian developers, circumventing Edman. Edman invoked the agreement’s arbitration clause. The arbitrator concluded that Johnson had breached the agreement and that Edman was entitled to damages. Johnson sought to vacate or modify the arbitral award, challenging the way in which the award took account of injuries to Edman’s subsidiaries and the arbitrator’s alleged refusal to follow Wisconsin law. The district court ruled in Edman’s favor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and upheld the district court’s award of attorney fees. View "Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Edman Controls, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1996 Beloit agreed to build high-speed paper-making machines for Indonesian paper companies. Two of the companies executed promissory notes in favor of Beloit reflecting a principal indebtedness of $43.8 million. The paper companies guaranteed the notes; Beloit assigned them to JPMorgan in exchange for construction financing. The machines were delivered in 1998 but did not run as specified. In 2000 the parties settled claims pertaining to the machines but preserved obligations under the notes. JPMorgan sued for nonpayment. The district court held that warranty-based claims were foreclosed by the settlement and that other defenses lacked merit; it awarded JPMorgan $53 million. After the appeal was filed, JPMorgan issued citations to discover assets. Although the companies raised an international conflict-of-law question, the district court ordered compliance with the citations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The settlement waived implied warranty defenses and counterclaims. The fraud defense is also mostly barred; to the extent it is not, the evidence was insufficient to survive summary judgment. The court also rejected defenses that the notes lacked consideration; that the notes were issued for a “special purpose” and were not intended to be repaid; and that JPMorgan is not a holder in due course. The discovery order was not appealable. View "JPMorgan Chase & Co., N.A. v. Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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American citizen-civilians, employees of a private Iraqi security services company, alleged that they were detained and tortured by U.S. military personnel while in Iraq in 2006, then released without being charged with a crime. Plaintiffs sought damages and to recover seized personal property. The district court denied motions to dismiss. In 2011, the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged Secretary Rumsfeld's personal responsibility and that he is not entitled to qualified immunity. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that a common-law claim for damages should not be created. The Supreme Court has never created or even favorably mentioned a nonstatutory right of action for damages on account of conduct that occurred outside of the U.S. The Military Claims Act and the Foreign Claims Act indicate that Congress has decided that compensation should come from the Treasury rather than from federal employees and that plaintiffs do not need a common-law damages remedy in order to achieve some recompense. Even such a remedy existed, Rumsfeld could not be held liable. He did not arrest plaintiffs, hold them incommunicado, refuse to speak with the FBI, subject them to loud noises, or threaten them while they wore hoods. View "Vance v. Rumsfeld" on Justia Law

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Harley-Davidson had a licensing agreement with a subsidiary of DFS and received notice that the companies had merged. Harley-Davidson did not exercise its right to terminate, but later discovered that DFS had sold unauthorized products bearing the trademark to an unapproved German retailer. Harley-Davidon sent an e-mail saying that it believed DFS was in breach of contract and that it was suspending approval of products. DFS responded in kind. Harley-Davidson then attempted to recover unpaid royalties and to secure from DFS information required under the agreement. DFS refused these attempts, but submitted production samples for a new collection. Harley-Davidson reminded DFS of the termination. DFS advised Harley-Davidson that it had “wrongfully repudiated the License Agreement” and that DFS planned to act unilaterally in accordance with its own views of rights and obligations. The district court granted injunctive relief against DFS, which was attempting to litigate the dispute in Greece. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Harley-Davidson made strong showings that DFS was deliberately breaching a licensing agreement and “has tried numerous legal twists and contortions to try to avoid the legal consequences.” The court rejected an argument that the agreement provision consenting to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin was not binding on DFS. View "H-D MI, LLC v. Hellenic Duty Free Shops, S.A." on Justia Law

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Most of the world's reserves of potash, a mineral used primarily in fertilizer, are in Canada, Russia, and Belarus. Defendants are producers with mines in those countries. Plaintiffs are direct and indirect potash purchasers in the U.S. They allege that producers operated a cartel through which they fixed prices in Brazil, China, and India, and that inflated prices in those markets influenced the price of potash in the U.S. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, 15 U.S.C. 6a. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The world market for potash is highly concentrated and U.S. customers account for a high percentage of sales. This is not a “House-that-Jack-Built situation in which action in a foreign country filters through many layers and finally causes a few ripples” in the U.S. Foreign sellers allegedly created a cartel, took steps outside the U.S. to drive the price up of a product that is wanted in the U.S., and, after succeeding, sold that product to U.S. customers. The payment of overcharges by those customers was objectively foreseeable, and the amount of commerce is substantial.

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Most of the world's reserves of potash, a mineral used primarily in fertilizer, are in Canada, Russia, and Belarus. Defendants are producers with mines in those countries. Plaintiffs are direct and indirect potash purchasers in the U.S. They allege that producers operated a cartel through which they fixed prices in Brazil, China, and India, and that inflated prices in those markets influenced the price of potash in the U.S. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, 15 U.S.C. 6a. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The FTAIA limits the extraterritorial reach of the Sherman Antitrust Act to foreign anticompetitive conduct that either involves U.S. import commerce or has a "direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect" on U.S. import or domestic commerce. Whether it blocks jurisdiction or establishes an element of a Sherman Act claim, the FTAIA bars this suit. The complaint alleged little of substance concerning the relationship between the alleged overseas anticompetitive conduct and the American domestic market.

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The district court dismissed a complaint asserting breach of contract, breach of a covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of a settlement agreement, promissory estoppel, equitable estoppel, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, accounting, reformation of contract, and several types of fraud in connection with agreements for "street furniture." After extensive discussion of whether the plaintiff, a sociedad anónima formed in Uruguay, was the equivalent of a corporation formed in the U.S., and the fact that the contract called for application of the law of Spain, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that, while the defendant did not treat plaintiff well, no rule of law entitles every business to a profit on every deal.