Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business 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
Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC
Plaintiffs Cheryl Thurston and Luis Licea (collectively Thurston) were California residents who purchased items from defendant Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (Fairfield), a Georgia limited liability company, through the company's website. Thurston alleged Fairfield’s website was not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The trial court granted Fairfield’s motion to quash service of summons, ruling that California could not obtain personal jurisdiction over Fairfield, because Fairfield did not have sufficient minimum contacts with California. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the evidence showed that Fairfield made some eight to ten percent of its sales to Californians. "Hence, its website is the equivalent of a physical store in California. Moreover, this case arises out of the operation of that website." The trial court therefore could properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Fairfield. View "Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC" on Justia Law
Sherwin Williams Co. v. County of Delaware
Two counties sued Sherwin-Williams in state court, seeking abatement of the public nuisance caused by lead-based paint. Anticipating suits by other counties, Sherwin-Williams sued in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Sherwin-Williams claimed that “[i]t is likely that the fee agreement between [Delaware County] and the outside trial lawyers [is] or will be substantively similar to an agreement struck by the same attorneys and Lehigh County to pursue what appears to be identical litigation” and that “the Count[y] ha[s] effectively and impermissibly delegated [its] exercise of police power to the private trial attorneys” by vesting the prosecutorial function in someone who has a financial interest in using the government’s police power to hold a defendant liable. The complaint pleaded a First Amendment violation, citing the company’s membership in trade associations, Sherwin-Williams’ purported petitioning of federal, state, and local governments, and its commercial speech. The complaint also argued that the public nuisance theory would seek to impose liability “that is grossly disproportionate,” arbitrary, retroactive, vague, and “after an unexplainable, prejudicial, and extraordinarily long delay, in violation of the Due Process Clause.”The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Sherwin-Williams failed to plead an injury in fact or a ripe case or controversy because the alleged harms hinged on the County actually filing suit. View "Sherwin Williams Co. v. County of Delaware" on Justia Law
Colucci v. T-Mobile USA, Inc.
T-Mobile USA, Inc. (T-Mobile) appeals a judgment entered on a $5 million jury verdict in favor of former employee Stephen Colucci in a workplace retaliation case. T-Mobile primarily challenged the punitive damages award, arguing insufficient evidence was presented at trial that a T-Mobile agent engaged in retaliatory conduct, or that the agent's actions were malicious or oppressive. Alternatively, T-Mobile argued the $4 million punitive damages award was constitutionally excessive. Stephen Colucci worked for T-Mobile from 2007 until 2014 as the manager of a store in Ontario, California. A series of incidents ranging from a medical accommodation request, defamatory comments made by co-workers, and an allegation that Colucci was running a side business while on duty for his T-Mobile store. On day, complaining of back pain, Colucci was permitted to leave work for the day; while away, Robson recommended to HR that T-Mobile terminate Colucci for "cause" (conflict of interest), notwithstanding no loss prevention investigator interviewed Colucci or any co-workers about Colucci's alleged side-dealings while on T-Mobile time. In making this decision, Robson admittedly bypassed T-Mobile's progressive discipline policy, which might have included a warning or less severe consequence before resorting to termination. Information about the alleged conflict of interest had come almost entirely from the associate; at no point did anyone speak to Colucci about a purported conflict. Unaware of any pending termination, Colucci submitted a formal request to HR for a medical leave of absence. Colucci also lodged a second complaint to T-Mobile's integrity line, reporting that Robson was discriminating against him and neglecting to resolve the defamation incident. Undeterred, Robson proceeded with processing Colucci's termination. Ultimately, a jury returned a unanimous verdict in Colucci's favor on his claim of retaliation, awarding $1,020,042 in total compensatory damages for past and future economic losses, and past and future noneconomic damages and/or emotional distress. After review, the Court of Appeal reduced the punitive damages award to an amount one and one-half times the amount of compensatory damages, but otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Colucci v. T-Mobile USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Beem USA Limited-Liability Limited Partnership v. Grax Consulting LLC
In this business case, the Supreme Court reversed the orders of the business court denying Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment based on its finding that Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy their burden of proving that the court possessed personal jurisdiction over Defendant, a nonresident company, holding that Defendant's contacts with North Carolina were sufficient to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction over it in North Carolina state courts.In the complaint, Plaintiffs sought an injunction, in part, directing Defendant to turn over certain documents and information necessary for Plaintiffs to wind up the affairs of a limited-liability limited partnership. A default was entered against Defendant, but the business court denied Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with this state such that a North Carolina court could constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over it. View "Beem USA Limited-Liability Limited Partnership v. Grax Consulting LLC" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Morales
Johnson rented her restaurant to a private party. For unknown reasons, individuals unaffiliated with her or the party emerged from a vehicle that night and shot at the restaurant. Police were called during the shooting but never apprehended the shooters. Less than two days later, Saginaw City Manager Morales issued Johnson a notice ordering the suspension of all business activity related to her restaurant under an ordinance that permits such suspensions “in the interest of the public health, morals, safety, or welfare[.]” There was hearing three days later. More than two months after the hearing, Human Resources Director Jordan upheld the suspension. Johnson filed suit with a motion for a temporary restraining order and, alternatively, a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Morales from sitting on the appeal panel expected to review Jordan’s decision. The district court denied that motion. The appeal panel, which did not include Morales, held a hearing and affirmed Jordan’s decision upholding the suspension. The Sixth Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of Johnson’s burden-shifting, substantive due process, and equal-protection claims. Johnson adequately alleged selective enforcement and pled that the city lacked a rational basis to suspend her license. Johnson has plausibly alleged that the procedures afforded to Johnson fell short of constitutional requirements. View "Johnson v. Morales" on Justia Law
Chicago Studio Rental, Inc. v. Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity
For nearly 30 years, Chicago Studio operated the only film studio in Chicago. In 2010, Cinespace opened a new studio. Cinespace rapidly expanded its studio to include 26 more stages and 24 times more floor space than Chicago Studio’s facility. Chicago Studio subsequently failed to attract business and stopped making a profit. Chicago Studio sued the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Film Office, and Steinberg (state actors responsible for promoting the Illinois film industry), alleging that the Defendants unlawfully steered state incentives and business to Cinespace in violation of the Sherman Act and equal protection and due process protections. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of those claims. The Sherman Act claim was properly dismissed because Chicago Studio failed to adequately plead an antitrust injury but merely alleged injuries to Chicago Studio, not to competition. The complaint does not plausibly allege that Defendants conspired to monopolize or attempted to monopolize the Chicago market for operating film studios. The district court properly granted summary judgment on the equal protection claim. Chicago Studio and Cinespace are not similarly situated, and there was a rational basis for Steinberg’s conduct. Cinespace consistently reached out to Steinberg for marketing support; Chicago Studio rarely did and it was rational for Steinberg to promote the studios based on production needs. View "Chicago Studio Rental, Inc. v. Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity" on Justia Law
GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc. (the “Garden”) leased land from the City of Atlanta. The Garden wished to enforce a policy precluding the possession of firearms by visitors to, and guests of, the Garden, like Phillip Evans. Evans held a valid weapons carry license under Georgia law and asserted that he was authorized to carry a firearm at the garden under the authority of OCGA 16-11-127 (c). The Garden contended it could enforce its policy based on an exception to the general rule found in the same statutory paragraph. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether OCGA 16-11-127 (c) permitted a private organization that leased property owned by a municipality to prohibit the carrying of firearms on the leased premises. The Court of Appeals determined that it did and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Garden on the petition for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. The Georgia Supreme Court determined this case turned on whether the Garden was indeed private property. Because no lease was entered into the trial court record, judgment was reversed for further proceedings at the trial court. View "GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc." on Justia Law
White v. Square, Inc.
The Supreme Court answered a question regarding California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code 51 et seq., by holding that a plaintiff has standing to bring a claim under the Act when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services and encounters terms and conditions that allegedly deny the plaintiff full and equal access to the website's services and then leaves the website without entering into an agreement with the service provider.Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging that Defendant's seller agreement discriminated against him in violation of the Act. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Plaintiff lacked standing under the Act to sue Defendant because Plaintiff had not attempted to use Defendant's services. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the certification order at issue in this case. The Supreme Court held that, under the rule announced today, Plaintiff sufficiently alleged injury for Unruh Civil Rights Act standing because entering into an agreement with the business is not required for standing under the Act. View "White v. Square, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Rights, Supreme Court of California
Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood
In 2005 Paramount leased a parcel of highway-adjacent property in Bellwood, Illinois, planning to erect a billboard. Paramount never applied for a local permit. When Bellwood enacted a ban on new billboard permits in 2009, Paramount lost the opportunity to build its sign. Paramount later sought to take advantage of an exception to the ban for village-owned property, offering to lease a different parcel of highway-adjacent property directly from Bellwood. Bellwood accepted an offer from Image, one of Paramount’s competitors. Paramount sued Bellwood and Image, alleging First Amendment, equal-protection, due-process, Sherman Act, and state-law violations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Paramount lost its lease while the suit was pending, which mooted its claim for injunctive relief from the sign ban. The claim for damages was time-barred, except for an alleged equal-protection violation. That claim failed because Paramount was not similarly situated to Image; Paramount offered Bellwood $1,140,000 in increasing installments over 40 years while Image offered a lump sum of $800,000. Bellwood and Image are immune from Paramount’s antitrust claims. The court did not consider whether a market-participant exception to that immunity exists because Paramount failed to support its antitrust claims. View "Paramount Media Group, Inc. v. Village of Bellwood" on Justia Law