Articles Posted in Business Law

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A jeweler and a coin dealer brought facial and as-applied Fourth Amendment challenges to warrantless search provisions in Ohio’s Precious Metals Dealers Act (PMDA). Section 4728.05(A) allows the state to “investigate the business” of licensees and non-licensees with “free access to the books and papers thereof and other sources of information with regard to the[ir] business[es].” Section 4728.06 requires licensees to maintain records, at the licensed premises in a state-approve form, open to inspection by the head of the local police department and, “upon demand,” to show authorities any precious metal within their possession that is listed in these records. Section 4728.07 requires licensees to keep separate records, available to local police “every business day.” Ohio Administrative Code 1301:8-6-03(D), allows the state to inspect “at all times” all sources of information "with regard to the business of the licensee” and requires that licensees maintain their records and inventory at the licensed location. The Sixth Circuit held that the warrantless searches authorized by O.R.C. 4728.05(A) are facially unconstitutional, as not necessary to furthering the state’s interest in recovering stolen jewelry and coins; nor do they serve as adequate warrant substitutes because they are overly broad. The Sixth Circuit upheld sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as facially constitutional. The state has a substantial interest in regulating precious metals; the provisions are narrowly tailored to address the state’s proffered need to curb the market in stolen precious metals. The court dismissed as-applied challenges to sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as not ripe. View "Liberty Coins, LLC v. Goodman" on Justia Law

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A jeweler and a coin dealer brought facial and as-applied Fourth Amendment challenges to warrantless search provisions in Ohio’s Precious Metals Dealers Act (PMDA). Section 4728.05(A) allows the state to “investigate the business” of licensees and non-licensees with “free access to the books and papers thereof and other sources of information with regard to the[ir] business[es].” Section 4728.06 requires licensees to maintain records, at the licensed premises in a state-approve form, open to inspection by the head of the local police department and, “upon demand,” to show authorities any precious metal within their possession that is listed in these records. Section 4728.07 requires licensees to keep separate records, available to local police “every business day.” Ohio Administrative Code 1301:8-6-03(D), allows the state to inspect “at all times” all sources of information "with regard to the business of the licensee” and requires that licensees maintain their records and inventory at the licensed location. The Sixth Circuit held that the warrantless searches authorized by O.R.C. 4728.05(A) are facially unconstitutional, as not necessary to furthering the state’s interest in recovering stolen jewelry and coins; nor do they serve as adequate warrant substitutes because they are overly broad. The Sixth Circuit upheld sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as facially constitutional. The state has a substantial interest in regulating precious metals; the provisions are narrowly tailored to address the state’s proffered need to curb the market in stolen precious metals. The court dismissed as-applied challenges to sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as not ripe. View "Liberty Coins, LLC v. Goodman" on Justia Law

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Hall and Thompson built a significant client base as brokers of equipment rental insurance. They brought some of their clients to a specialty division they formed at Hylant. USI paid a substantial sum for Hylant’s assets and to keep Hall and Thompson on as employees to continue building their client base; Hall and Thompson gave up any ownership interest in their clients and promised that if they were terminated, they would refrain from soliciting those clients for two years. They agreed that USI could assign their employment contracts to a subsequent purchaser. Edgewood bought out USI’s entire equipment rental insurance business. Hall and Thompson could not work out an arrangement with Edgewood, so USI terminated them. They began contacting their old clients and sought a declaratory judgment permitting them to do so. Edgewood obtained a preliminary injunction barring Hall and Thompson from breaching their non-solicitation agreements. The Sixth Circuit remanded for factual findings as to which of Thompson’s clients he recruited and developed solely on his own accord, and which clients Hylant and USI expended their resources in recruiting and developing, with respect to which Edgewood is likely to succeed on the merits. Edgewood has no legitimate interest in barring Thompson from soliciting clients who came to Hylant and USI solely to avail themselves of Thompson’s services and only as a result of his own independent recruitment efforts. View "Hall v. Edgewood Partners Insurance Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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General Motors provides sales incentives to dealers who sell cars to GM employees, retirees, and their family members at a discounted rate. The dealer must collect a signed agreement from the purchaser that establishes his eligibility for the program. In 2014, GM audited one of its Ohio dealers, Sims, and discovered transactions in which Sims had failed to collect the agreement from purchasers within the timeline set by GM in a 2012 dealership bulletin. GM debited Sims’ account $47,493.28 for improper incentive payments. Sims is located near a large GM plant in Lordstown, and the Purchase Program accounts for 80% to 90% of its sales. Sims filed suit alleging breach of contract and violations of the Ohio Dealer Act. The district court granted GM summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The parties’ dealership arrangement permitted the debit and a timely filed Consumer Dealer Agreement constitutes “material documentation” under Section 4517.59(A)(20)(a) of the Ohio Dealer Act. View "Sims Buick-GMC Truck, Inc. v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Tawas, Michigan hosts an annual festival called “Perchville.” Its Chamber of Commerce obtained federal trademark registration for the term “Perchville,” in 2003. Trading Post allegedly was selling merchandise depicting the term “Perchville.” The Chamber filed suit against Agnello, a Trading Post employee, and obtained an ex parte injunctive order prohibiting sales of t-shirts with the mark, which stated: “this order shall be binding upon the parties to this action, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys and on those persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of this order by personal service [or] otherwise.” Agnello appeared at a hearing without an attorney, indicated that he had spoken to Trading Post's partial owner about the lawsuit, but repeatedly stated that he was confused. Agnello consented to a permanent injunction. The judge stated that the order would be binding on anyone acting in concert with Agnello. Trading Post filed suit, challenging the Chamber’s trademark of “Perchville.” The district court found the challenge barred by res judicata because a final determination on the merits occurred in the state court. The Sixth Circuit reversed. There may be circumstances when an employee’s interests are so aligned with his employer as to be in privity for purposes of res judicata, that was not true here. Agnello was an hourly employee given a few days’ notice of an injunction. View "AuSable River Trading Post, LLC v. Dovetail Solutions, Inc." on Justia 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