Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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This case involves Vertiv, Inc., Vertiv Capital, Inc., and Gnaritis, Inc., Delaware corporations, who sued Wayne Burt, PTE Ltd., a Singaporean corporation, for defaulting on a loan. Vertiv sought damages and a declaratory judgment. Later, Wayne Burt informed the court that it was in liquidation proceedings in Singapore and moved to vacate the judgments against it. The District Court granted the motion and vacated the judgments, reopening the cases. Wayne Burt then moved to dismiss Vertiv’s claims, either on international comity grounds in deference to the ongoing liquidation proceedings in Singapore, or due to a lack of personal jurisdiction. The District Court granted Wayne Burt’s motion to dismiss, concluding that extending comity to the Singaporean court proceedings was appropriate.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the District Court's decision and remanded the case. The court clarified the standard to apply when deciding whether to abstain from adjudicating a case in deference to a pending foreign bankruptcy proceeding. The court held that a U.S. civil action is “parallel” to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding when: (1) the foreign bankruptcy proceeding is ongoing in a duly authorized tribunal while the civil action is pending in the U.S. court; and (2) the outcome of the U.S. civil action may affect the debtor’s estate. The court also held that a party seeking the extension of comity must show that (1) “the foreign bankruptcy law shares the U.S. policy of equal distribution of assets,” and (2) “the foreign law mandates the issuance or at least authorizes the request for the stay.” If a party makes a prima facie case for comity, the court should then determine whether extending comity would be prejudicial to U.S. interests. If a U.S. court decides to extend comity to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding, it should ordinarily stay the civil action or dismiss it without prejudice. View "Vertiv Inc. v. Wayne Burt PTE Ltd" on Justia Law

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The case involved a dispute between Winn-Dixie Stores and the Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative, Inc. (EMMC), its individual mushroom farmer members, and certain downstream distributors. Winn-Dixie accused the defendants of violating antitrust laws by engaging in a price-fixing agreement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the District Court was correct in applying the rule of reason, rather than a "quick-look" review, in assessing the legality of the defendants' pricing policy under the Sherman Act. The court found that the complex and variable nature of the arrangements within the cooperative, involving both horizontal and vertical components, necessitated a careful analysis to determine anticompetitive effects. The court also held that the jury's verdict, which found that the defendants' pricing policy did not harm competition, was not against the weight of the evidence and did not warrant a new trial. The court affirmed the District Court’s judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Winn Dixie Stores v. Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative Inc" on Justia Law

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Since 1992, the Energy Star Program has set energy efficiency standards for categories of products and permitted approved products to bear the Energy Star logo. Three models of Whirlpool top-loading clothes washers were approved to display that logo and did so from 2009-2010. Under one method of measurement, those machines did not meet the Program’s energy- and water-efficiency standards; the washers did satisfy the Program’s standards under another measurement technique, which the Program previously endorsed. Program guidance from July 2010 disapproved of that method.Consumers in several states who had purchased those models commenced a putative class action against Whirlpool and retailers that sold those machines, alleging breach of express warranty and violations of state consumer protection statutes based on the allegedly wrongful display of the Energy Star logo. The district court certified a class action against Whirlpool but declined to certify a class against the retailers. At summary judgment, the court rejected all remaining claims.The Third Circuit affirmed, finding no genuine dispute of material fact. The plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the models were unfit for their intended purpose. A reasonable jury could not find that the retailer defendants were unjustly enriched from selling the washers. Without evidence of a false or misleading statement attributable to Whirlpool or the retailers, the state consumer protection claims failed. View "Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp" on Justia Law

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A project labor agreement (PLA) is a collective-bargaining agreement between a project owner, contractors, and unions, setting the terms and conditions of employment for a particular construction project. The terms can include recognizing a union as the workers’ exclusive bargaining representative and paying the workers union wages—even if they are not union members. The plaintiffs claim the project labor agreements violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Sherman Act.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims, citing lack of standing. Concreteness and particularity are two Article III standing requirements but those concrete injuries must also be actual or imminent. The contractor-plaintiffs declared they never have and never will bid on PLA-covered projects, admitting they never experienced and never will experience a compelled association or economic harm. To the extent the contractors’ declarations are a proxy for determining the actuality or imminence of harm to their employees, the contractors indicate they have not and will not bid on PLA-covered projects. The employees did not plead that they did or plan to work on PLA-covered public projects. The mere fact that the contractors claim they are “able and ready” to bid or work on PLA-covered public projects does not cure their failure to bid in the past and admitted refusal to bid. View "Associated Builders & Contractors of Western Pennsylvania v. Community College of Allegheny County" on Justia Law

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Winn-Dixie sued EMMC, its individual farmer members, and certain downstream distributors claiming their price-fixing agreement violated the Sherman Act. 15 U.S.C. 1. EMMC, a cooperative of mushroom growers, targets the Eastern United States. Initially, EMMC controlled over 90 percent of the supply of fresh Agaricus mushrooms in the relevant market. That share fell to 58% percent by 2005, and 17% percent by 2010. EMMC’s 20-plus initial members shrunk to fewer than five. EMMC’s stated purpose was to establish a “Minimum Pricing Policy,” under which it would “circulat[e] minimum price lists” along with rules requiring the member companies to uniformly charge those prices to all customers. Those minimums were not the price at which growers sold the product, but the price at which EMMC members hoped to coerce downstream distributors to go to market. Certain members were grower-only entities, lacking an exclusive relationship with any distributor. Many members partnered with specific, often legally-related downstream distributors. The precise nature of these relationships varied widely but downstream distributors were prohibited from joining EMMC.The district court instructed the jury to apply the “rule-of-reason” test. The Third Circuit affirmed a verdict in EMMC’s favor. Winn-Dixie argued that the judge should have instructed the jury to presume anticompetitive effects. Because this hybrid scheme involved myriad organizational structures with varying degrees of vertical integration, the court correctly applied the rule of reason. Under that more searching inquiry, the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdict. View "Winn Dixie Stores v. Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative Inc" on Justia Law

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Imperial Sugar went bankrupt in 2001 and suffered a costly accident in 2008, prompting its sale to Louis Dreyfus. Imperial receives from Louis Dreyfus only minimal investment and is an “import-based, price-uncompetitive sugar refinery” that is “structurally uncompetitive” and lost roughly 10 percent of its customers from 2021-2022. Florida-based refiner U.S. Sugar agreed to purchase Imperial. The government sought an injunction (Clayton Act. 15 U.S.C. 18), arguing that the acquisition would have anticompetitive effects, leaving only two entities in control of 75% of refined sugar sales in the southeastern United States. The government applied the hypothetical monopolist test to demonstrate the validity of its proposed product and geographic markets. U.S. Sugar responded that it does not sell its own sugar but participates with other producers in a Capper-Volstead agricultural cooperative that markets and sells the firms’ output collectively but exercises no control over the quantities produced. At capacity, Imperial’s facility could produce only about seven percent of national output. U.S. Sugar argued that distributors constitute a crucial competitive check on producer-refiners that would undermine any attempt to increase prices and noted evidence of the high mobility of refined sugar throughout the country.The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of an injunction, upholding a finding that the government overlooked the pro-competitive effects of distributors in the market, erroneously lumped together heterogeneous wholesale customers, and defined the relevant geographic market without regard for the high mobility of sugar throughout the country. View "United States v. United States Sugar Corp." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit asserting federal securities claims. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants The district court subsequently performed a Federal Rule 11 inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 but did not award attorneys’ fees or impose any other sanctions.The Third Circuit held that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims by filing for an improper purpose. The plaintiffs expressly stated that their “strategy was to file these complaints to force a settlement.” In addition, their Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support in violation of Rule 11(b)(3). The plaintiffs had a reasonable basis for their Rule 10b-5 Securities Fraud Claim. The court vacated in part. The PSLRA creates a presumption in favor of awarding attorneys’ fees when a complaint constitutes a “substantial failure” to comply with Rule 11 but the district court did not err in finding that the Rule 11 violations were not substantial. Nonetheless, the PSLRA makes the imposition of sanctions mandatory after a court determines that a party violated Rule 11, so the court abused its discretion in declining to impose any form of sanctions. View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law

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Liposomal bupivacaine is a nonopioid pain medication that Pacira manufactures under the name EXPAREL; it is a local anesthetic administered at the time of surgery to control post-surgical pain. As of 2020, EXPAREL sales represented nearly all of Pacira’s total revenue. Pacira complains that the defendants, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, its journal, its editor, and authors published statements in a variety of forms, conveying their view that EXPAREL is “not superior” to standard analgesics or provides “inferior” pain relief.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Pacira’s suit for trade libel. Opinion statements are generally nonactionable. A “fair and natural” reading of the statements at issue shows that these are nonactionable subjective expressions. Pacira’s allegations boil down to disagreements about the reliability of the methodology and data underlying the statements; “a scientific conclusion based on nonfraudulent data in an academic publication is not a ‘fact’ that can be proven false through litigation.” Pacira failed to identify any aspect of the Articles, a Continuing Medical Education program, or a Podcast that “bring their conclusions outside the protected realm of scientific opinion.” View "Pacira Biosciences Inc v. American Society of Anesthesiologists Inc" on Justia Law

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During the tax years at issue, 2010–2013, the Taxpayers owned a New Jersey horse farm. Their Company employed several employees, none of whom had a budget. The Company paid the Taxpayers' personal expenses and lost more than $3.5 million during the years at issue and more than $11.4 million between 1998-2013. The Taxpayers contributed capital and made loans to the Company. In 2016, the Company sold a horse for nearly $1.2 million, enabling it to report a modest overall profit.In 2016, the IRS sent notices of income tax deficiencies. The Tax Court sustained the deficiency determinations, holding that the Taxpayers could not deduct Company losses because their horse breeding activity was not engaged in for profit under Internal Revenue Code section 183 and that the Taxpayers failed to substantiate net operating loss carryforwards that allegedly arose from Company activity. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Tax Court did not clearly err when it found that adverse market conditions did not explain the Company’s sustained unprofitability and correctly considered the Taxpayers’ substantial income from other sources. The profit generated from the 2016 horse sale was tempered by the fact that it occurred after the tax years at issue and after the notices of deficiency. The expertise of the Taxpayers and their advisors was the only factor that favored the Taxpayers. View "Skolnick v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Millennium's laboratory provides drug testing to healthcare professionals. Mauthe, a private practice MD, used Millennium’s services. On May 2, 2017, Millennium faxed all of its customers a single-page flyer promoting a free educational seminar to “highlight national trends in opioid misuse and abuse . . . and discuss the role of medication monitoring ... during the care of injured workers.” Although Millennium offered urine testing to detect opioids, the fax did not mention that service nor provide any pricing information, discounts, or product images. The seminar did not promote any goods or services for sale but described statistics on opioid abuse and the role of such drugs in chronic pain management. It explained that drug testing could help detect or monitor opioid abuse, and assessed the efficacy of several testing methods. The seminar did not identify providers or prices for any of the drug testing methods it reviewed. After the seminar, Millennium did not follow up with any registrants or attendees.Mauthe who has sued fax senders in more than 10 lawsuits since 2015, seeking damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, (b)(3), filed a putative class action against Millennium. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Liability under the TCPA extends only to “unsolicited advertisement[s],” meaning communications that promote the sale of goods, services, or property. Under an objective standard, no reasonable recipient could construe the seminar fax as such an unsolicited advertisement. View "Robert W Mauthe MD PC v. Millennium Health LLC" on Justia Law