Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
GC Brothers Entertainment v. Alcoholic Beverage Control etc.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Department) revoked a nightclub’s liquor license after the club’s owner, GC Brothers Entertainment LLC dba The Palms (Petitioner), failed to respond to an accusation alleging several violations of California statutes and regulations. Petitioner appealed the Department’s decision to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board (Appeals Board), which affirmed it, and now seeks a writ of mandate directing the Department to vacate its decision. The Second Appellate District granted the writ. The court held that the licensing scheme and strong state policy in favor of resolving cases on the merits grant an ALJ discretion to issue an OSC when he or she receives even an arguably deficient motion for relief from default. It thus runs contrary to the spirit of the licensing scheme to insist that a licensee present its complete and best case for relief within seven days of service of a notice of default. Here, the ALJ not only apparently believed he had no discretion to liberally construe Respondent’s motion for relief, but also found that Respondent’s failure to establish an irrelevant issue—proper service—constituted a failure to show good cause for relief. The ALJ’s failure to appreciate the scope of his discretion and application of an improper standard requires that we remand the matter to afford the ALJ an opportunity to exercise his discretion in the first instance and, applying the proper standard, determine whether Petitioner has shown good cause for relief from default. View "GC Brothers Entertainment v. Alcoholic Beverage Control etc." on Justia Law
New Jersey Bankers Association v. Attorney General New Jersey
NJBA, a non-profit trade association representing 88 New Jersey banks, sought to make independent expenditures and contributions to political parties and campaigns for state and local offices. NJBA has not made these payments because of N.J. Stats. 19:34-45, which provides that, “[n]o corporation carrying on the business of a bank . . . shall pay or contribute money or thing of value in order to aid or promote the nomination or election of any person, or in order to aid or promote the interests, success or defeat of any political party.” NJBA brought a facial challenge on its own behalf and on behalf of third-party banks.The district court held that section 19:34-45’s prohibition on independent expenditures violates the First Amendment but that the ban on political contributions by certain corporations does not violate the First Amendment and passes intermediate scrutiny. The Third Circuit reversed, declining to address the First Amendment issues. The statute does not apply to trade associations of banks. NJBA is not “carrying on the business of a bank.” With respect to the facial challenge, NJBA does not satisfy the narrow exception to the general rule against third-party standing. View "New Jersey Bankers Association v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law
In re P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC
The Court of Chancery denied Jessica Puathasnanon's motion to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), holding that Puathasnanon was subject to personal jurisdiction in Delaware for purposes of the claims asserted in this case.Hudson Vegas Investment SPV, LLC sued various defendants, including Puathasnanon, the general counsel and chief legal officer of P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC, asserting that Puathasnanon breached the fiduciary duties she owed to P3 and its members. Puathasnanon filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the court could not exercise personal jurisdiction over her. The Court of Chancery denied the motion to dismiss, holding that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Puathasnanon comported with minimum standards of due process. View "In re P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law
All Star Awards & Ad Specialties, Inc. v. HALO Branded Solutions, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court reducing the jury's punitive damages award against HALO Branded Solutions, Inc., holding that the circuit court's application of the punitive damages cap in Mo. Rev. Stat. 510.265 did not violate All Star Awards & Ad Specialities Inc.'s right to a jury trial, and the reduced award did not violate HALO's due process rights.All Star brought this action against HALO and All Star's employee, Doug Ford. A jury found HALO tortiously interfered with All Star's business expectancy, that Ford breached his duty of loyalty to All Star, and that HALO conspired with Ford to breach this duty of loyalty. The jury awarded All Star $525,542 in actual damages and assessed $5.5 million in punitive damages against HALO. The circuit court applied section 510.265 and capped the punitive damages award at five times All Star's actual damages - or $2,627,709 - and entered final judgment in accordance with the jury's verdicts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly reduced All Star's award of punitive damages; and (2) the reduced award was within the constitutional parameters of due process. View "All Star Awards & Ad Specialties, Inc. v. HALO Branded Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Del Castillo v. Secretary, Florida Department of Health
Heather operated a health-coaching business called Constitution Nutrition. She started her business in California, which did not require a license. After moving to Florida in 2015, she continued to run her business—meeting online with most of her clients and meeting in person with two clients who lived in Florida. She described herself as a “holistic health coach” and not as a dietician. Heather tailored her health coaching to each client, which included dietary advice. After a complaint was filed against her and she paid $500.00 in fines and $254.09 in investigatory fees, Heather sued, claiming that Florida’s Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act, which requires a license to practice as a dietician or nutritionist, violated her First Amendment free speech rights to communicate her opinions and advice on diet and nutrition to her clients. The district court granted the Florida Department of Health summary judgment.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, after considering the Supreme Court’s decision in National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra (2018). The Act “is a professional regulation with a merely incidental effect on protected speech,” and is constitutional under the First Amendment. View "Del Castillo v. Secretary, Florida Department of Health" on Justia Law
Thurston v. Omni Hotels Management Corporation
Plaintiff-appellant Cheryl Thurston was blind and used screen reader software to access the Internet and read website content. Defendant-respondent Omni Hotels Management Corporation (Omni) operated hotels and resorts. In November 2016, Thurston initiated this action against Omni, alleging that its website was not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. By way of a special verdict, the jury rejected Thurston’s claim and found that she never intended to make a hotel reservation or ascertain Omni’s prices and accommodations for the purpose of making a hotel reservation. On appeal, Thurston contended the trial court erred as a matter of law: (1) by instructing the jury that her claim required a finding that she intended to make a hotel reservation; and (2) by including the word “purpose” in the special verdict form, which caused the jury to make a “factual finding as to [her] motivation for using or attempting to use [Omni’s] Website.” Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Thurston v. Omni Hotels Management Corporation" on Justia Law
Vitolo v. Guzman
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allocated $29 billion for grants to help restaurant owners. The Small Business Administration (SBA) processed applications and distributed funds on a first-come, first-served basis. During the first 21 days, it gave grants only to priority applicants--restaurants at least 51% owned and controlled by women, veterans, or the “socially and economically disadvantaged,” defined by reference to the Small Business Act, which refers to those who have been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice” or “cultural bias” based solely on immutable characteristics, 15 U.S.C. 637(a)(5). A person is considered “economically disadvantaged” if he is socially disadvantaged and he faces “diminished capital and credit opportunities” compared to non-socially disadvantaged people who operate in the same industry. Under a pre-pandemic regulation, the SBA presumes certain applicants are socially disadvantaged including: “Black Americans,” “Hispanic Americans,” “Asian Pacific Americans,” “Native Americans,” and “Subcontinent Asian Americans.” After reviewing evidence, the SBA will consider an applicant a victim of “individual social disadvantage” based on specific findings.Vitolo (white) and his wife (Hispanic) own a restaurant and submitted an application. Vitolo sued, seeking a preliminary injunction to prohibit the government from disbursing grants based on race or sex. The Sixth Circuit ordered the government to fund the plaintiffs’ application, if approved, before all later-filed applications, without regard to processing time or the applicants’ race or sex. The government failed to provide an exceedingly persuasive justification that would allow the classification to stand. The government may continue the preference for veteran-owned restaurants. View "Vitolo v. Guzman" on Justia Law
Electra v. 59 Murray Enterprises, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants unlawfully used photographs of them to advertise strip clubs owned by defendants in violation of New York Civil Rights Law sections 50 and 51. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, holding that plaintiffs signed full releases of their rights to the photographs.The Second Circuit concluded that the terms of Plaintiff Shake and Hinton's release agreements are disputed material facts, and defendants concede that neither they nor the third-party contractors that created and published the advertisements secured legal rights to use any of the photographs at issue. The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants and in denying summary judgment to plaintiffs on liability. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.The court affirmed in part and held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs had not accepted the offer of judgment because the offer's settlement amount term was ambiguous, the parties disagreed over how to interpret the term, and there was accordingly no meeting of the minds. Finally, the court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), New York General Business Law Section 349, and libel claims. View "Electra v. 59 Murray Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act, remanding for further proceedings. At issue is whether the First Amendment shields a publisher of supposedly independent product reviews if it has secretly rigged the ratings to favor one company in exchange for compensation. The panel ruled that this speech qualifies as commercial speech only, and that a nonfavored company may potentially sue the publisher for misrepresentation under the Lanham Act.In this case, Ariix alleges that NutriSearch rigged its ratings to favor Usana under a hidden financial arrangement. The panel held that Ariix plausibly alleges that the nutritional supplement guide is commercial speech, is sufficiently disseminated, and contains actionable statements of fact. However, the panel remanded for the district court to consider the "purpose of influencing" element under the Lanham Act. View "Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp." on Justia Law
Department of Human Rights v. Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC
In 2014, a $30,880 judgment covering backpay and pre-judgment interest was entered against Oakridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC, for its age and disability discrimination against a former employee, in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101. Oakridge Rehab had already gone out of business and transferred the assets and operation of its nursing home facility to Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC in 2012. Unable to enforce the judgment against Oakridge Rehab, the state instituted proceedings to enforce the judgment against Oakridge Healthcare.The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oakridge Healthcare, declining to adopt the federal successor liability doctrine in cases arising under the Human Rights Act. The court noted four limited exceptions to the general rule of nonliability for corporate successors and declined to apply the fraudulent purpose exception, which exists “where the transaction is for the fraudulent purpose of escaping liability for the seller’s obligations.” The court stated that it is within the legislature’s power to abrogate the common-law rule of successor nonliability or otherwise alter its standards through appropriately targeted legislation for employment discrimination cases. View "Department of Human Rights v. Oakridge Healthcare Center, LLC" on Justia Law