Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Commercial Law
Bret Healy v. Albert Fox
Plaintiff filed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims against several parties after a family-help ranch was sold to a corporate entity against his knowledge.In 1961, Plaintiff’s father and grandfather formed the Healy Ranch Partnership (“HRP”). In 1986, Plaintiff’s grandmother transferred her partnership interest to Plaintiff in exchange for him assuming the partnership’s debt and making certain payments to her. In 1994, Plaintiff’s mother formed a South Dakota corporation, Healy Ranch, Inc. (“HRI”). She filed articles of incorporation authorizing HRI to issue 1,000,000 shares of common stock with a par value of one dollar per share. The articles of incorporation stated that the “corporation will not commence business until consideration of the value of at least Five Thousand Dollars has been received for the issuance of shares.” That same year, Plaintiff’s mother and her lawyer caused HRI to issue nearly 300,000 shares without consideration. In 1995, Plaintiff’s mother conveyed all of the partnership’s real-property interest in the ranch to HRI, including both her 50 percent share as well as Plaintiff’s 50 percent share. In 2000, Plaintiff’s mother sold one-third of her shares of HRI to Plaintiff and one-third to each of his two brothers. In Healy I, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s actions.Plaintiff then filed this RICO action; which the court dismissed because it ran afoul of res judicata and the four-year statute of limitations for RICO claims. View "Bret Healy v. Albert Fox" on Justia Law
Carpenters’ Pension Fund of IL v. Michael Neidorff
Following the merger of Centene Corporation ("Centene") and Health Net, Inc. ("Health Net)," certain shareholders of Centene (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought five claims on behalf of the corporation against certain of its former and then-current directors and officers and nominal defendant Centene (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiffs did not make a pre-suit demand on Centene's Board of Directors (the Board). The district court dismissed their complaint with prejudice, finding that the plaintiffs failed to plead particularized facts demonstrating that a demand would have been futile.The Eighth Circuit found that the plaintiffs failed to plead facts showing the relevant documents contained a material misrepresentation. Further, the court did not consider the second or third claims because the plaintiffs made no argument contesting the district court's finding that a majority of the Board faces a substantial likelihood of liability. Next, the circuit court held that the plaintiffs' futility argument was patently insufficient. Finally, the circuit court found that at least half of the Board does not face a substantial likelihood of liability under the plaintiffs' insider trading claim. As such, the circuit court found the same as to plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim pertaining to alleged insider trading. The circuit court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Carpenters' Pension Fund of IL v. Michael Neidorff" on Justia Law
Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that a consequential-damages exclusion is enforceable in a contract for the sale of goods. The court concluded that the contract is clear that Viracon is not liable for consequential damages and found Far East's arguments to the contrary unpersuasive. In this case, the consequential-damages exclusion provision is not unconscionable under Minn. Stat. Sec. 336.2-719(3), and the alleged failure of the contract’s exclusive remedy has no effect on the enforceability of the consequential-damages exclusion. To the extent Far East’s indemnity claim survives the consequential-damages exclusion, it fails because there is no express contract obligating Viracon to reimburse it for the liability of the character involved. Finally, the court denied leave to amend. View "Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc." on Justia Law
Agrifund, LLC v. Heartland Co-op
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to Agrifund on the conversion claim Agrifund brought against Heartland. The court concluded that Heartland failed to exercise reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing, and Heartland does not qualify as a holder in due course. In this case, it would have taken minimal effort for Heartland to confirm, whether with the borrowers or with Agrifund, that Agrifund had been fully recompensed before accepting the payment at issue.The court also concluded that the Subrogation Agreement did not bind Heartland to the terms of the Note; the 14% contractual interest rate does not apply to the damages award; and the district court properly awarded pre-judgment interest at the rate required by Iowa law and post-judgment interest at the federal rate. Finally, the court concluded that Heartland is not liable for attorney fees as set forth in the Note, and there is no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision to deny Agrifund's request for attorney fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's award of damages and attorney fees. View "Agrifund, LLC v. Heartland Co-op" on Justia 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