Articles Posted in Business Law

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Beginning in 2001, Ford received complaints from F-Series vehicle purchasers, relating to the fuel tanks. The problems were clustered in certain regions. Ford suspected that unique qualities in regional fuel supplies, particularly excessive concentrations of biodiesel, were causing delamination. In 2007, Ford released an improved tank coating. Ford’s warranty claims decreased, but some reports of delamination persisted. By 2010, Ford believed that the cause was not biodiesel but was acids found in fuel samples from service stations near a dealer that encountered numerous delamination complaints. Coba purchased two 2006 F-350 dump trucks for his landscaping business. By 2009, both trucks exhibited delamination. Ford's dealership replaced the tanks and filters in both trucks at no cost to Coba. Coba continued to have the same problems, even after the warranties expired. Coba filed a class-action, asserting breach of Ford’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty (NVLW), violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA), and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford. The denial of class certification did not divest the district court of jurisdiction, although jurisdiction was predicated on the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d).The NVLW, which covered defects in “materials or workmanship” did not extend to design defects, such as alleged by Coba, which also negated his breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. The evidence of Ford’s knowledge of the alleged defect did not create a triable NJCFA issue. View "Coba v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Spartan, which operated on St. Croix, sought to displace Heavy Materials as the sole provider of ready-mix concrete on St. Thomas. Upon entering the St. Thomas market, Spartan started a price war that caused financial losses to Spartan while Heavy Materials retained its dominant position. After three years of fierce competition, the companies reached a truce: Spartan agreed to sell on St. Croix while Heavy Materials would keep selling on St. Thomas. Spartan then sued Argos, a bulk cement vendor, alleging violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), by giving Heavy Materials a 10 percent volume discount during the price war. The district court entered judgment for Argos and denied Spartan leave to amend its complaint to include two tort claims, finding undue delay and prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although Argos gave Heavy Materials alone a 10 percent volume discount on concrete, Spartan presented no evidence linking this discount to its inability to compete in the St. Thomas market. Spartan did compete with Heavy Materials for three years and not only lowered its retail prices, but also began a price war and achieved a nearly 30 percent share of the St. Thomas retail ready-mix concrete market. View "Spartan Concrete Products LLC v. Argos USVI Corp." on Justia Law

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Oberdorf walked her dog with a retractable leash. Unexpectedly, the dog lunged. The D-ring on the collar broke and the leash recoiled and hit Oberdorf’s face and eyeglasses, leaving Oberdorf permanently blind in her left eye. Oberdorf bought the collar on Amazon.com. She sued Amazon.com, including claims for strict products liability and negligence. The district court found that, under Pennsylvania law, Amazon was not liable for Oberdorf’s injuries. A third-party vendor, not Amazon itself, had listed the collar on Amazon’s online marketplace and shipped the collar directly to Oberdorf. The court found that Amazon was not a “seller” under Pennsylvania law and that Oberdorf’s claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because she sought to hold Amazon liable for its role as the online publisher of third-party content. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. Amazon is a “seller” under section 402A of the Second Restatement of Torts and thus subject to the Pennsylvania strict products liability law. Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond a mere editorial function; it plays a large role in the actual sales process. Oberdorf’s claims against Amazon are not barred by section 230 of the CDA except as they rely upon a “failure to warn” theory of liability. The court affirmed the dismissal under the CDA of the failure to warn claims. View "Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc" on Justia Law

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Brooks, Debtor's CEO, was charged with financial crimes. In class action and derivative lawsuits, Debtor proposed a global settlement that indemnified Brooks for liability under the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 15 U.S.C. 7243. Cohen, Debtor’s former General Counsel and a shareholder, claimed that the indemnification was unlawful. The district court approved the settlement, Cohen, represented by CLM, appealed. The Second Circuit vacated, noting that the EDNY would determine CLM’s attorneys’ fees award. Debtor initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Debtor’s liquidation plan, with a trustee to pursue Debtor’s interest in recouping its losses from the ongoing actions. Brooks died in prison. Because his appeal had not concluded, some of his convictions and restitution obligations were abated. Stakeholders negotiated a second global settlement agreement, under which $142 million of Brooks’ restrained assets were to be distributed to his victims; $70 million has been remitted to Debtor. The Bankruptcy Court awarded CLM fees for the SOX 304 claim; the amount would be determined if Debtor received any funds on account of the claim. CLM’s Fee Appeal remains pending at the district court. CLM requested a $25 million reserve for payment of its fees. The Bankruptcy Court ordered Debtor to set aside $5 million. CLM’s Fee Reserve Appeal remains pending. CLM then moved, unsuccessfully, for a stay of Second Settlement Agreement distributions. In its Stay Denial Appeal, CLM’s motion requesting a stay of distributions was denied. The Third Circuit affirmed. The $5 million reserve is sufficient. A $5 million attorneys’ fees award for 1,502.2 hours of legal work totaling $549,472.61 of documented fees would yield an hourly rate of $3,328.45 and a lodestar multiplier of over nine. In common fund cases where attorneys’ fees are calculated using the lodestar method, multiples from one to four are the norm. View "SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP" on Justia Law

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StoneMor sells funeral products and services and is required by state law to hold in trust a percentage of proceeds from “pre-need sales.” Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), preneed sales held in trusts may not be represented as current revenue StoneMor issued nonGAAP financials that represented pre-need sales as a portion of current revenue; borrowed cash to distribute to investors the proceeds of preneed sales in the same quarter the sale was made; and used proceeds from equity sales to pay down the borrowed cash that funded those distributions. In 2016, StoneMor announced that it would restate about three years of previously-reported financial statements. Under GAAP regulations, StoneMor was temporarily prohibited from selling units and receiving corresponding equity proceeds. Plaintiffs allege that this prohibition caused StoneMor’s October 2016 unit distribution to fall by nearly half; StoneMor blamed the cut on salesforce issues. StoneMor’s unit price dropped by 45%. Investors sued under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), and Rule 10b-5, alleging that Defendants made false or misleading statements, with scienter, which Plaintiffs relied on to their financial detriment. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case for failure to satisfy the heightened pleading standards of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, 15 U.S.C. 78u-4. In a securities fraud case, a defendant’s sufficient disclosure of information can render alleged misrepresentations immaterial. StoneMor’s disclosures sufficiently informed reasonable investors of the risks inherent in its business. View "Fan v. Stonemor Partners LP" on Justia Law

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Kamal visited various J. Crew store, making credit card purchases. Each time, Kamal “received an electronically printed receipt,” which he retained, that “display[ed] the first six digits of [his] 6 credit card number as well as the last four digits.” The first six digits identify the issuing bank and card type. The receipts also identified his card issuer, Discover, by name. Kamal does not allege anyone (other than the cashier) saw his receipts. His identity was not stolen nor was his credit card number misappropriated. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Kamal’s purported class action under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), which prohibits anyone who accepts credit or debit cards as payment from printing more than the last five digits of a customer’s credit card number on the receipt, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), for lack of Article III standing. Absent a sufficient degree of risk, J. Crew’s alleged violation of FACTA is “a bare procedural violation.” View "Kamal v. J. Crew Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sköld coined the name “Restoraderm” for a proprietary drug-delivery formulation that he developed for potential use in skin-care products. He entered into a 2001 letter of intent with CollaGenex, a skin-care company, stating that “[a]ll trademarks associated with the drug delivery system … shall be applied for and registered in the name of CollaGenex and be the exclusive property of CollaGenex.” Their 2002 contract reiterated those provisions and stated that termination of the agreement would not affect any vested rights. With Sköld’s cooperation, CollaGenex applied to register the Restoraderm mark. Under a 2004 Agreement, Sköld transferred Restoraderm patent rights and goodwill to CollaGenex, without mentioning trademark rights. After Galderma bought CollaGenex it used Restoraderm as a brand name on products employing other technologies. In 2009, Galderma terminated the 2004 Agreement, asserting that it owned the trade name and that Sköld should not use the name. Sköld markets products based on the original Restoraderm technology that do not bear the Restoraderm mark. Galderma’s Restoraderm product line has enjoyed international success. Sköld sued, alleging trademark infringement, false advertising, unfair competition, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Only Sköld’s unjust enrichment claim was successful. The Third Circuit reversed in part, absolving Galderma of liability. The 2004 agreement, rather than voiding CollaGenex’s ownership of the mark by implication, confirmed that CollaGenex owned the Restoraderm mark. Galderma succeeded to those vested rights. View "Skold v. Galderma Laboratories L.P." on Justia Law

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Shire manufactured and marketed the lucrative drug Vancocin, which is used to treat a life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. After Shire learned that manufacturers were considering making generic equivalents to Vancocin, it inundated the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with allegedly meritless filings to delay approval of those generics. The FDA eventually rejected Shire’s filings and approved generic equivalents to Vancocin. The filings resulted in a high cost to consumers. Shire had delayed generic entry for years and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Nearly five years later, after Shire had divested itself of Vancocin, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against Shire under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b), seeking a permanent injunction and restitution, and alleging that Shire’s petitioning was an unfair method of competition. The district court dismissed, finding that the FTC’s allegations of long-past petitioning activity failed to satisfy Section 13(b)’s requirement that Shire “is violating” or “is about to violate” the law. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting “the FTC’s invitation to stretch Section 13(b) beyond its clear text.” The FTC admits that Shire is not currently violating the law and did not allege that Shire is about to violate the law. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Shire ViroPharma Inc" on Justia Law

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Consumer banks Hudson and M&T merged. Hudson’s shareholders claimed they violated the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78n(a), and SEC Rule 14a-9, by omitting facts concerning M&T’s regulatory compliance from their joint proxy materials: M&T’s having advertised no-fee checking accounts but later switching those accounts to fee-based accounts (consumer violations) and deficiencies in M&T’s Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering compliance program. They argued that because the proxy materials did not discuss M&T’s noncompliant practices, M&T failed to disclose significant risk factors facing the merger, rendering M&T’s opinion statements regarding its adherence to regulatory requirements and the prospects of prompt approval of the merger misleading under Supreme Court precedent (Omnicare). The Third Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of the suit. The shareholders pleaded actionable omissions under the SEC Rule but failed to do so under Omnicare. The joint proxy had to comply with a provision that requires issuers to “provide under the caption ‘Risk Factors’ a discussion of the most significant factors that make the offering speculative or risky.” It would be reasonable to infer the consumer violations posed a risk to regulatory approval of the merger, despite cessation of the practice by the time the proxy issued. The disclosures were inadequate as a matter of law. View "Jaroslawicz v. M&T Bank Corp" on Justia Law

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From 1910 until 1986, Greenlease Holding Co. (“Greenlease”), a subsidiary of the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation (“Ampco”), owned a contaminated manufacturing site in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Trinity Industries, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Trinity Industries Railcar Co. (collectively, “Trinity”), acquired the site from Greenlease in 1986 and continued to manufacture railcars there until 2000. An investigation by Pennsylvania into Trinity’s waste disposal activities resulted in a criminal prosecution and eventual plea-bargained consent decree which required, in relevant part, that Trinity remediate the contaminated land. That effort cost Trinity nearly $9 million. This appeal arose out of the district court’s determination that, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), and Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”), Trinity was entitled to contribution from Greenlease for remediation costs. The parties filed cross-appeals challenging a number of the district court’s rulings, including its ultimate allocation of cleanup costs. The Third Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court on several pre-trial rulings on dispositive motions, vacated the cost allocation determination and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trinity Industries Inc v. Greenlease Holding Co." on Justia Law