Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Defendant Living Essentials, LLC, sold its 5-hour Energy drink to the Costco Wholesale Corporation and also to the plaintiff wholesalers, who alleged that Living Essentials offered them less favorable pricing, discounts, and reimbursements in violation of the Robinson-Patman Act. On summary judgment, the district court found that the wholesalers had proved the first three elements of their section 2(a) claim for secondary-line price discrimination. At a jury trial on the fourth element of section 2(a), whether there was a competitive injury, the jury found in favor of Defendants. At a bench trial on the wholesalers’ section 2(d) claim for injunctive relief, the court ruled in favor of Defendants.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated and reversed in part the district court’s judgment after a jury trial and a bench trial in favor of Defendants. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that there was some factual foundation for instructing the jury that section 2(a) required the wholesalers to show, as part of their prima facie case, that Living Essentials made “reasonably contemporaneous” sales to them and to Costco at different prices. The panel further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury that the wholesalers had to prove that any difference in prices could not be justified as “functional discounts” to compensate Costco for marketing or promotional functions. The panel concluded that the functional discount doctrine was legally available to Defendants. View "U.S. WHOLESALE OUTLET & DISTR., ET AL V. INNOVATION VENTURES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Miller, who describes himself as “an active wine consumer,” asserts that he wants to order wine from out-of-state retailers and would like to be able to buy wine in other states and transport that wine back into Ohio for his personal use. House of Glunz is an Illinois wine retailer and alleges that it wishes to ship wine directly to Ohio consumers but cannot. Miller and Glunz challenged the constitutionality of Ohio liquor laws preventing out-of-state wine retailers from shipping wine directly to Ohio consumers and prohibiting individuals from transporting more than 4.5 liters of wine into Ohio during any 30-day period.The district court held that the Direct Ship Restriction is constitutional under binding Sixth Circuit precedent; the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from the claims; and the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the Transportation Limit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Eleventh Amendment immunity, reversed with respect to the Direct Ship Restriction and the plaintiffs’ standing to challenge the Transportation Limit. On remand, the district court shall determine whether the challenged statutes “can be justified as a public health or safety measure or on some other legitimate nonprotectionist ground,” and whether their “predominant effect” is “the protection of public health or safety,” rather than “protectionism.” View "Block v. Canepa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Carrington Mortgage Services on behalf of the United States for alleged violations of the False Claims Act. Calderon is a former employee of Carrington. She alleged that Carrington made false representations to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the course of certifying residential mortgage loans for insurance coverage from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Carrington moved for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff did not meet her evidentiary burden on two elements of False Claims Act liability. The district court sided with Carrington on both elements and granted summary judgment, disposing of Plaintiff’s lawsuit.   The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Plaintiff does have sufficient proof of materiality. However, the court agreed that she has not met her burden of proof on the element of causation. The court explained that on the present record, it is not clear how a factfinder would even spot the alleged false statement in each loan file, let alone evaluate its seriousness and scope. And though Plaintiff asserted that the misrepresentations, in this case, are of the type identified in Spicer, the court did not see much in the record to support that point other than Plaintiff’s assertions. Without more evidence from which a jury could conclude that Carrington’s alleged misrepresentations in each loan caused the subsequent defaults, the nature of those misrepresentations is not enough to get past summary judgment. View "Michelle Calderon v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing certain defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the defendants' contacts were too attenuated for them to have purposefully established minimum contacts within Nebraska.The out-of-state defendants at issue on appeal facilitated the sale of allegedly defective software installed by a local mechanic in four of Plaintiff's trucks. Plaintiff asserted against them claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied warranties. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff failed to make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the quality and nature of the defendants' activities related to this action did not support personal jurisdiction. View "Wheelbarger v. Detroit Diesel ECM, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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