Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Commercial Law
Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P.
Defendants are the nation’s largest distributors of pre-filled propane exchange tanks, which come in a standard size. Before 2008, Defendants filled the tanks with 17 pounds of propane. In 2008, due to rising prices, Defendants reduced the amount in each tato 15 pounds, maintaining the same price. Plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, who bought tanks from retailers, claimed this effectively raised the price. In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action alleging conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs settled with both Defendants. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Defendants, which settled in 2015 by consent orders, for conspiring to artificially inflate tank prices. In 2014, another group of indirect purchasers (Ortiz) brought a class action against Defendants, alleging: “Despite their settlements, Defendants continued to conspire, and ... maintained their illegally agreed-upon fill levels, preserving the unlawfully inflated prices." The Ortiz suit became part of a multidistrict proceeding that included similar allegations by direct purchasers (who bought tanks directly from Defendants for resale). The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the direct-purchaser suit as time-barred, holding that each sale in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. The court subsequently held that the indirect purchasers inadequately pled an injury-in-fact and lack standing to pursue an injunction to increase the fill levels of the tanks and may not seek disgorgement of profits. View "Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P." on Justia Law
Sweetwater Cattle Co. v. Murphy
Leigh Murphy d/b/a Murphy Cattle Co. appealed the bankruptcy court's orders holding that Sweetwater's lien in certain cattle was superior to Murphy's rights as an unpaid seller of the cattle. The panel concluded that the result in this case would be the same under either Colorado or Nebraska law and thus relied on cases from both states interpreting the relevant provisions of the UCC; Murphy signed a document transferring ownership of the cattle to Debtor Leonard, such that others could reasonably rely on Leonard's claim of ownership; Moffat County State Bank v. Producers Livestock Marketing Assoc. does not stand for the proposition that Article 2 is inapplicable here as to the passage of title, and the bankruptcy court did not err in turning to Article 2 of the UCC; pursuant to section 2-401, title passed to Leonard at the moment the cattle were shipped; Murphy's right to have title re-vest in him when the checks were dishonored was limited to his reclamation rights; under section 2-403, when Leonard received title from Murphy at the time of shipping, he received all the title Murphy had, as well as the power to transfer good title to a good faith purchaser for value (Sweetwater in this case); the panel denied Sweetwater's request to strike Murphy's electronic record filing; and the panel denied Sweetwater's oral request for sanctions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sweetwater Cattle Co. v. Murphy" on Justia Law
Insulate SB, Inc. v. Advanced Finishing Sys., Inc.
Graco manufactures fast-set spray foam equipment (FSE) and sells it to distributors, who resell to consumers like Insulate. In 2005 and 2008 Graco purchased competing FSE manufacturers, ultimately raising its market share “to above 90%.” In 2007, Graco sent a letter to its distributors citing the “best efforts” clause in its distributor agreements, stating: It is our opinion that taking on an additional competitive product line may significantly reduce the “best efforts” of a Graco distributor.” In 2009, Foampak, a Graco distributor, considered carrying Gama products but chose not to after Graco threatened to end its distributorship. Graco sued Gama, alleging theft of trade secrets; Gama counterclaimed that Graco had unilaterally monopolized the FSE market (Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2). In 2013, the FTC accused Graco of unlawfully acquiring its competitors (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18). Graco and the FTC entered a consent agreement which confirmed Graco would not engage in any practice “that has the purpose or effect of achieving Exclusivity with any Distributor.” The agreement did “not constitute an admission by [Graco] that the law ha[d] been violated.” Insulate filed suit. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal on the pleadings. Insulate did not adequately plead concerted action in the existence of written anticompetitive contracts or implied exclusivity agreements. View "Insulate SB, Inc. v. Advanced Finishing Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Northeast Bank v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Grand Rios purchased a Brooklyn Park, Minnesota hotel and waterpark, assuming $4.61 million of the debt owed to Northeast Bank by the original owner, and purchased insurance from Hanover Insurance. The roof was damaged by a snowstorm. Sill was hired to handle the claim. Hanover issued checks totaling $350,000 made jointly payable to Grand Rios, Northeast, and Sill. Without Northeast’s endorsement, knowledge, or consent, Wells Fargo Bank paid the full amount of the checks to Grand Rios. Months later, Northeast and Grand Rios entered into a Settlement Agreement under which Grand Rios agreed to a voluntary foreclosure, assigned all insurance proceeds to Northeast, paid $50,000 to Northeast, and allowed a state court to appoint a receiver for the hotel and waterpark. Hanover made additional insurance payments of approximately $1.2 million. Ultimately Northeast received approximately $200,000 more than the debt Grand Rios owed and sold the property to CarMax. Northeast sued Hanover and Wells Fargo. The district court dismissed Hanover and granted summary judgment in favor of Northeast against Wells Fargo.. The Eighth Circuit reversed. While the payment constituted conversion under the UCC, Minn. Stat. 336.3-420, Northeast has not suffered any damages because it was subsequently paid the full amount of the debt for which the checks were security. View "Northeast Bank v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Stonebridge Collection, Inc. v. Carmichael
Stonebridge, an engraver of promotional pocket knives, sued its former distributor Cutting-Edge and its members; competitor knife engraver TaylorMade and its sole member and manager Taylor, a former Stonebridge employee; and Massey, a TaylorMade employee and former Stonebridge employee, arising from Massey’s copying Stonebridge’s computer files and using those files to solicit business from Stonebridge customers. Stonebridge brought claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968; the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), Ark. Code 4-88-101; and Arkansas common law. The district court partially found for Stonebridge on its fraud and conversion claims, dismissed the remaining eight claims, and denied the parties’ motions for attorney fees. The Eighth Circuit upheld: the finding that defendants converted the copies of certain files created by Stonebridge; an award of damages for unjust enrichment; a finding Stonebridge did not establish the existence of a business expectancy under Arkansas law; a finding Cutting-Edge fraudulently induced Stonebridge to send sample knives while intending to employ TaylorMade as its engraver on the orders placed as a result of seeing the samples; and dismissal of the RICO and ADTPA claims. View "Stonebridge Collection, Inc. v. Carmichael" on Justia Law
IPSCO Tubulars, Inc. v. Ajax TOCCO Magnathermic Corp.
IPSCO Tubulars contracted for Ajax to provide equipment to heat-treat steel pipe at IPSCO’s Blythesville plant, which produces pipe for use in the oil and gas industry. After installation, the product did not perform properly. Tubing processed through the equipment was badly distorted. IPSCO sued for breach of contract, gross negligence, and punitive damages. The district court found Ajax liable for breach of contract, awarding $5,162,298.55 in damages. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded the breach-of-contract damages, holding that there were inadequate findings to support the award, and affirmed in all other respects. The most reasonable interpretation of the contract as a whole obligated Ajaxto provide equipment that could uniformly heat-treat pipe, at 96 fpm, without causing distortion, cracks or inconsistencies that would prevent the pipe's conversion to higher American Petroleum Institute grades; the evidence was sufficient to establish that the defects in the Ajax equipment was the cause of the defects in the pipe. View "IPSCO Tubulars, Inc. v. Ajax TOCCO Magnathermic Corp." on Justia Law
North Cent. Rental & Leasing, LLC v. United States
Butler sells agricultural and construction equipment, primarily for Caterpillar. In 2002, Butler formed North Central to take over its leasing operations. The companies are ultimately controlled by the same family and share space. Butler performs North Central’s accounting and ordering functions and initially pays the wages of its employees. Caterpillar assigned separate dealer codes, but Butler used its code to order equipment for itself and North Central. Under North Central's like-kind-exchange (LKE) program, North Central sold its used equipment to third parties, who paid a qualified intermediary, Accruit, which forwarded proceeds to Butler; Butler purchased new Caterpillar equipment for North Central and transferred it to North Central via Accruit, charging the same amount that Butler paid for the equipment. Butler's LKE transactions facilitated favorable Caterpillar financing terms. Butler essentially received a six-month, interest-free loan from each exchange. From 2004-2007 North Central claimed nonrecognition treatment of gains from 398 LKE transactions under IRC 1031, so that the gain was not included in gross income at the time of actual sale or gain. The IRS declared that the transactions were not entitled to nonrecognition treatment, reasoning that North Central structured the transactions to avoid the related-party exchange restrictions of section 1031(f). The district court analyzed Butler's unfettered access to the cash proceeds and the relative complexity of the transactions and entered judgment in favor of the government. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. View "North Cent. Rental & Leasing, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Yazdianpour v. Safeblood Techs., Inc.
Licensees entered into a licensing agreement with Safeblood Tech for the exclusive rights to market patented technology overseas. After learning that they could not register the patents in other countries, Licensees sued Safeblood for breach of contract and sued Safeblood, its officers, and patent inventor for fraud, constructive fraud, and violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), Ark. Code 4-88-101 to -115. The district court dismissed the fraud claims at summary judgment. The remaining claims proceeded to trial and a jury found for Licensees, awarding them $786,000 in contract damages and no damages for violations of the ADTPA. The district court awarded Licensees $144,150.40 in prejudgment interest. The Eighth Circuit reversed as to the common-law fraud claim and the award of prejudgment interest, but otherwise affirmed. Licensees produced sufficient evidence that the inventor made a false statement of fact; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it gave the jury a diminution-in-product-value instruction; and Licensees waived their inconsistent-verdict argument. View "Yazdianpour v. Safeblood Techs., Inc." on Justia Law
Knigge, et al v. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.
Debtors appealed from the ruling of the bankruptcy court granting summary judgment to SunTrust and denying summary judgment to debtors, on debtors' adversary complaint that challenged SunTrust's standing to enforce a promissory note and deed of trust on debtors' property, and sought to remove the deed of trust from the chain of title to such property. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment and held that the promissory note was a negotiable instrument and that SunTrust was entitled to enforce it and the deed of trust. The bankruptcy court properly used evidence from the affidavit of SunTrust's representative and properly applied judicial estoppel. View "Knigge, et al v. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law
Rashaw v. United Consumers Credit Union
Four named plaintiffs filed three separate class action lawsuits in state court alleging, inter alia, that three Missouri credit unions, by participating in a subprime motor vehicle lending and investment program administered by now-bankrupt Centrix Financial, LLC, violated provisions of the Missouri Uniform Commercial Code (Mo UCC) and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA). Defendants removed under the Class Action Fairness Act and moved to dismiss the complaints. The district court issued three identical orders dismissing all the state law claims. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the three appeals and affirmed, holding that plaintiffs' Mo UCC claims were time-barred and that the MMPA expressly exempted Missouri credit unions. View "Rashaw v. United Consumers Credit Union" on Justia Law