Articles Posted in Business Law

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The Ohio Department of Health cited Carlton Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center for health and safety violations. Carlton hired Sovran Management to help turn things around. When that failed, the nursing home closed. McKinney, a former employee, sought back pay in a purported class action under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires “employer[s]” to give their employees 60 days’ notice before they “order” the closing of a company, 29 U.S.C. 2102. Carlton defaulted but had no assets. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a judgment for Sovran. Carlton, not Sovran, was the employer and decided to close the facility. Only “employer[s]” that “order” a plant closing face regulation by the Act or liability under it. View "McKinney v. Carlton Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2004, Baker Lofts purchased an abandoned building for renovation. Loans of more than $5 million from Huntington were secured by two mortgages on the building and by personal property, including a tax-increment-financing agreement, rental income, and Baker’s liquor license. Baker defaulted in 2011. Huntington assigned the 2005 mortgage to its subsidiary, Fourteen, which foreclosed by public auction. The Notice stated that “[t]he balance owing on the Mortgage is $5,254,435.04,” but did not mention the senior 2004 mortgage, which Huntington retained. Fourteen, the only bidder, purchased the property for $1,856,250. Huntington released the 2004 mortgage. Fourteen sold the property for $2,355,000. Huntington thought that Baker still owed $3.5 million and invoked its security interests in the remaining collateral. At a public sale, Huntington bought the rights to Baker's tax-increment-financing agreement for $1,107,000; began collecting rents; and asserted its security interest in the liquor license, which Baker had sold before it declared bankruptcy. Assignees of Baker's legal claims sought a declaratory judgment that the sale of the building extinguished all of Baker’s debt. They also raised conversion and tortious interference claims and a claim under Michigan’s secured transactions statute. The Sixth CIrcuit affirmed Huntington's judgment. The district court correctly concluded that Baker’s debt exceeded the value of the foreclosed building and that excess permitted Huntington to take possession of the other property securing its loans. View "DAGS II, LLC v. Huntington National Bank" on Justia Law

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Great Lakes Brewing sought to end its relationship with one of its distributors, Glazer’s., after it executed a corporate merger without seeking Great Lakes’ consent, as required by their contract. Glazer’s successor corporation sought to preliminarily enjoin the impending termination, arguing that the contract’s consent requirement was invalid under the Ohio Alcoholic Beverages Franchise Act, Ohio Rev. Code 1333.82–87. The district court agreed and found that the remaining equities weighed in favor of granting the preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Because the parties’ consent provision is valid under state law, the distributor had no likelihood of success on the merits. Far from prohibiting such provisions section 1333.84(F) actually anticipates that parties will include such provisions in their written franchise agreements; the fact that it requires manufacturers to “act in good faith in accordance with reasonable standards for fair dealing” regarding the sale of a distributor’s business necessarily implies that manufacturers can have a say over the transaction. View "Southern Glazer's Distributors of Ohio, LLC v. Great Lakes Brewing Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Michigan Flyer provides public transportation services to the Detroit Metro area and provides services on behalf of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. In 2014, two disabled individuals sued the Wayne County Airport to prevent it from moving the public transportation bus stop from the curbside at the terminal. Michigan Flyer provided support to the disabled individuals in the lawsuit. Michigan Flyer alleges that after the lawsuit settled, the Airport retaliated against it by extending preferential access to all other transportation providers. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act Title V provisions, 42 U.S.C. 12203(a); the district court’s refusal to reopen the case pursuant to FRCP 59; and denial of the Airport’s motion for attorney’s fees. The statute’s use of the term “individual” is unambiguous and does not include corporations, such as Michigan Flyer. View "Michigan Flyer, LLC v. Wayne County Airport Authority" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Kinzel, then CEO of Cedar Fair, borrowed $8,000,000 from Merrill Lynch to finance his exercise of the company’s stock options and to pay estimated taxes that would be due immediately upon exercise. Kinzel pledged the shares that he would acquire as collateral and entered into an agreement that allowed Merrill Lynch, “in its sole discretion and without prior notice,” to “liquidate” the collateral upon any of twelve events, including “if the value of the . . . collateral is in the sole judgment of [Merrill Lynch] insufficient.” The market value of the company dropped from the exercise price of $23.19 per share in April 2008 to $6.99 per share in March 2009. Having set a $7.00-per-share “trigger” to liquidate, Merrill Lynch began selling Kinzel’s shares, without advance notice to Kinzel and without first making demand upon Kinzel for repayment. Kinzel appealed the district court’s denial of leave to file an amended complaint to reassert a breach-of-contract claim that had been dismissed, and final judgment in favor of Merrill Lynch on a breach-of-good-faith claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that Kinzel could not state a claim for breach of contract and that Merrill Lynch exercised its discretion within the “contemplated range” of “judgment based upon sincerity, honesty, fair dealing and good faith.” View "Kinzel v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

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In 2005, B&W entered into a contract to design and construct a Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) system to control emissions at KCP&L’s coal-burning Kansas power station. B&W purchased catalyst modules for the SCR from Cormetech, which guaranteed that the catalyst would perform under specified conditions for 24,000 operating hours before needing replacement. KCP&L began operating the SCR in April 2007. A June 2007 performance test revealed that the rate of “ammonia slip” was higher than expected, but within guaranteed limits. B&W advised Cormetech of the issue. Cormetech began testing. A September 2008 letter from KCP&L advised that it was B&W’s obligation to “generate a corrective action plan.” After KCP&L determined in 2008 that the catalyst was at the end of its useful life, it contracted directly with Cormetech for a replacement, which also failed before the end of its expected life. KCP&L’s claim against B&W resulted in a $3.5 million meditation settlement. B&W sued Cormetech; the case was dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the parties’ tolling agreement while B&W pursued mediation with KCP&L. After those efforts resulted in the settlement, B&W reinstituted the action within the agreed period. Following discovery the district court granted Cormetech summary judgment, finding a breach-of-warranty claim time-barred and that an indemnification claim failed for lack of evidence that B&W’s losses resulted from a defect in goods or services purchased from Cormetech. The Sixth Circuit vacated, finding that the court erred by failing to view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. View "Babcock & Wilcox Co. v. Cormetech, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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In 2002, Deere became the exclusive North American wholesale supplier of Hitachi products. In 2014, Deere notified Rudd, a long-time authorized dealer of Hitachi equipment, of its intent to terminate its dealer agreements and initiated arbitration proceedings, as required by the agreement. Although Rudd agreed that arbitration was the proper forum, it sought injunctive relief to maintain the status quo during arbitration and moved to seal the case, stating that “the very fact of this lawsuit” could cause loss of customers, layoffs (or preemptive departure) of employees, and diminution of the value of Rudd’s financial investment. Two weeks later, the district court entered Rudd's proposed order, before Deere submitted a response. During an on-the-record telephonic status conference, the court asked the parties whether the case should remain under seal; Rudd’s counsel replied that it should, while Deere’s counsel was silent. The matter proceeded to an Agreed Order. The arbitration panel requested a copy of that Order, believing that it would obviate the need for an expedited hearing. Deere’s counsel forwarded the Order without consulting Rudd. Rudd moved for contempt . Deere moved to vacate the sealing order. The Sixth Circuit affirmed an order unsealing the case. Rudd cannot show any countervailing privacy interest sufficient to outweigh the strong presumption in favor of public access to federal court records View "Rudd Equip. Co., Inc. v. John Deere Constr. & Forestry Co." on Justia Law

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The defendant companies, based in China, produce conventional solar energy panels. Energy Conversion and other American manufacturers produce the newer thin-film panels. The Chinese producers sought greater market shares. They agreed to export more products to the U.S. and to sell them below cost. Several entities supported their endeavor. Suppliers provided discounts, a trade association facilitated cooperation, and the Chinese government provided below-cost financing. From 2008-2011, the average selling prices of their panels fell over 60%. American manufacturers consulted the Department of Commerce, which found that the Chinese firms had harmed American industry through illegal dumping and assessed substantial tariffs. The American manufacturers continued to suffer; more than 20 , including Energy Conversion, filed for bankruptcy or closed. Energy Conversion sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, and Michigan law, seeking $3 billion in treble damages, claiming that the Chinese companies had unlawfully conspired “to sell Chinese manufactured solar panels at unreasonably low or below cost prices . . . to destroy an American industry.” Because this allegation did not state that the Chinese companies could or would recoup their losses by charging monopoly prices after driving competitors from the field, the court dismissed the claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Without such an allegation or any willingness to prove a reasonable prospect of recoupment, the court correctly rejected the claim. View "Energy Conversion Devices Liquidation Trust v. Trina Solar Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2011 UJC private jet charter services hired Plaintiff as a co-pilot. After altercations between Plaintiff, a woman, and male pilots, which Plaintiff perceived to constitute sexual harassment, Plaintiff wrote an email to UJC management. About three weeks later, Plaintiff’s employment was terminated. Plaintiff sued, alleging retaliation. Defendants’ answer stated that UJC had converted from a corporation to an LLC. Plaintiff did not amend her complaint. Defendants’ subsequent motions failed did not raise the issue of UJC’s identity. UJC’s CEO testified that he had received reports that Plaintiff had used her cell phone below 10,000 feet; that once Plaintiff became intoxicated and danced inappropriately at a bar while in Atlantic City for work; that Plaintiff had once dangerously performed a turning maneuver; and that Plaintiff had a habit of unnecessarily executing “max performance” climbs. There was testimony that UJC’s male pilots often engaged the same behavior. The jury awarded her $70,250.00 in compensatory and $100,000.00 in punitive damages. When Plaintiff attempted to collect on her judgment, she was told that the corporation was out of business without assets, but was offered a settlement of $125,000.00. The court entered a new judgment listing the LLC as the defendant, noting that UJC’s filings and witnesses substantially added to confusion regarding UJC’s corporate form and that the LLC defended the lawsuit as though it were the real party in interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating it was unlikely that UJC would have offered a generous settlement had it genuinely believed itself to be a victim of circumstance, or that it would be deprived of due process by an amendment to the judgment; the response indicated a litigation strategy based on “roll[ing] the dice at trial and then hid[ing] behind a change in corporate structure when it comes time to collect.” View "Braun v. Ultimate Jetcharters, LLC" on Justia Law

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Under Ohio Rev. Code 1333.85, suppliers manufacture or import alcoholic beverages and must sell their products to state-licensed distributors, who sell to retailers; supplier-distributor franchise agreements are protected from termination without just cause, except when a successor manufacturer acquires another manufacturer, the successor may terminate the franchise by repurchasing the distributor’s inventory and compensating for the diminished value of the distributor’s business that is directly related to the sale of the product terminated. NAB owned Labatt through nested holding companies. NAB's owners sold their interests to CCR. Months later, Ohio distributors of the Labatt brands received letters terminating their franchises, citing the section 1333.85(D) exception. In the distributors' suit, the court granted CCR summary judgment on a Takings Clause claim and a claim regarding the scope of section 1333.85(D), then determined the diminution of the values of the distributors. The Sixth Circuit affirmed rejection of the constitutional claims. At common law, businesses may enter into contracts that allow for termination and contracting parties have a right to breach a contract that is no longer advantageous, in an “efficient breach.” That common-law norm is abrogated by section 1333.85, with an exception. The state created and is free to take away that protection from termination. The court remanded the calculation of damages with instructions to deduct the distributors' projected profits for the time until the date when the franchise agreements are finally terminated View "Tri County Wholesale Distrib., Inc. v. Labatt USA Operating Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts