Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Tugalo, his cousin and Tugalo President Thomas Gilmer, and Tugalo's directors in a 17-count complaint, alleging that Gilmer misappropriated corporate funds and that the company's board let it happen. The district court rejected plaintiff's substantive claims and declined to adjudicate three equitable claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions to grant summary judgment to Tugalo on plaintiff's fraud claim for lack of evidence of justifiable reliance (and, separately, to deny plaintiff's motion to defer ruling on the fraud claim). The court also affirmed the district court's decision to deny plaintiff's request to amend his complaint after the pleading-amendment deadline. However, the court reversed the district court's decision to abstain under the Burford abstention doctrine from adjudicating plaintiff's judicial-dissolution count. In this case, there was, and is, no ongoing state administrative proceeding or, for that matter, even any preexisting action by a Georgia state court or executive official to dissolve Tugalo. The court remanded for consideration of that count along with his other two equitable counts. View "Deal v. Tugalo Gas Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against ACS and in favor of its competing distributor, White Cap, on ACS's Sherman Antitrust Act and Georgia state law claims. ACS argues that summary judgment was erroneously granted because the evidence demonstrates that White Cap agreed with Meadow Burke to have Meadow Burke stop supplying ACS projects in Florida.The court held that the evidence is at least equally consistent with Meadow Burke having made an independent decision to terminate ACS as it is with an inference of concerted action. Furthermore, the evidence is at least equally consistent with White Cap having made an independent decision to continue distributing the Meadow Burke product as it is with it having engaged in concerted action. Therefore, the court cannot conclude that White Cap acted in a manner rising to the level of anticompetitive conduct necessary for a claim under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on ACS's monopolization and attempted monopolization claims pursuant to section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. View "American Contractors Supply, LLC v. HD Supply Construction Supply, Ltd." on Justia Law

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This appeal involves AC-USA's and Silikal's dispute over a shared trade secret consisting of the formula for 1061 SW, a flooring resin Silikal manufactured and sold (along with other flooring resins). AC-USA filed suit alleging that Silikal breached the agreement by selling 1061 SW without its written permission. A jury awarded AC-USA damages on each of its claims for common law breach of contract and for violation of the Georgia Trade Secrets Act of 1990 (GTSA) for misappropriation of the shared trade secret. The district court also awarded punitive damages on the misappropriation claim. The district court then denied Silikal's post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law on the misappropriation and contract claims, entering a final judgment for AC-USA for $5,861,415.The Eleventh Circuit rejected Silikal's argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction over its person, and thus affirmed the district court's denial of Silikal's motion to dismiss. However, the court concluded that AC-USA failed to prove its misappropriation claim because the evidence that Silikal misappropriated the trade secret is insufficient as a matter of law. Furthermore, AC-USA failed to prove that it sustained cognizable damages on its contract claim. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment on the misappropriation claim and vacated the damages awarded on the contract claim. Finally, the court held that AC-USA is entitled to nominal damages and attorney's fees on its contract claim in a sum to be determined by the district court on remand. View "Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH" on Justia Law

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Gateway is a small business debtor in an active Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding seeking a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Gateway applied for a PPP loan and falsely stated that it was not in bankruptcy in order to be eligible for the program. When Gateway filed a motion for approval in the bankruptcy court, the SBA objected that Gateway was ineligible for a PPP loan because it was in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court granted Gateway's motion anyway, concluding that the SBA's rule rendering bankruptcy debtors ineligible for PPP loans was an unreasonable interpretation of the statute, was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, and as a result was unlawful and unenforceable against Gateway.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the bankruptcy court's approval order, concluding that the SBA's rule is neither an unreasonable interpretation of the relevant statute nor arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the SBA did not exceed its authority in adopting the non-bankruptcy rule for PPP eligibility; the rule does not violate the CARES Act, is based on a reasonable interpretation of the Act, and the SBA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in adopting the rule; and the bankruptcy court committed an error of law in concluding otherwise in its approval order and its preliminary injunction order. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed the appeal from the memorandum opinion for lack of jurisdiction. View "USF Federal Credit Union v. Gateway Radiology Consultants, P.A." on Justia Law

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J-B Weld filed suit against Gorilla Glue, alleging claims for trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, Georgia law, and the common law of unfair competition; trade dress dilution under Georgia law; and false advertising under the Lanham Act and Georgia law.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gorilla Glue as to the false advertising claims, agreeing with the district court that J-B Weld has not shown that the inclusion of "steel bond epoxy" on GorillaWeld's packaging is material to consumers. However, the court reversed and remanded with respect to the trade dress infringement and trade dress dilution claims. In regard to the trade dress infringement claims, the court held that, although the posture of the case required the district court to view the evidence in the light most favorable to J-B Weld, the district court failed to do so in analyzing the "likelihood of confusion" between J.B. Weld Original's trade dress and GorillaWeld's trade dress. In regard to the trade dress dilution claims, the court held that the district court's abbreviated treatment of this claim leaves it with serious doubt that it applied the correct standard in concluding that J-B Weld was unable to show trade dress dilution. In this case, the district court's remarks about the indistinguishability of the applicable standards indicates that it applied the elements of the trade dress infringement claims to the trade dress dilution claim, thus conflating the two different sets of requirements. View "J-B Weld Co., LLC v. The Gorilla Glue Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a shareholder, filed a putative class action complaint against magicJack and eight individuals who were magicJack current or former directors. Plaintiff alleged that magicJack issued two proxy statements that contained material misrepresentations. The district court dismissed plaintiff's lawsuit because his claims were derivative in nature and he failed to plead that he made a demand on magicJack or that doing so would have been futile.The Eleventh Circuit held that federal courts should look to state law to decide the issue of whether a claim brought under a federal statute is direct or derivative. In this case, because magicJack is incorporated under the laws of Israel, Israeli law controls the court's analysis. However, even if the court applied Florida law, the result would be the same because the two bodies of law are consistent. The court held that plaintiff's claims are derivative in nature because he failed to allege that he suffered damages independent of the damages that magicJack (and all of its shareholders) suffered. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to plead that he personally suffered a special injury, distinct from that experienced by magicJack or its other shareholders. Finally, any recovery sought in the Second Amended Complaint would necessarily be for the benefit of magicJack and its shareholders. View "Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd." on Justia Law

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Warren, a manufacturer of unitary electric (UE) heaters for HVAC systems, filed suit against its competitor, Tutco and against a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), UL. Warren's claims are based on its allegations that, UL certified Tutco's UE heaters as compliant, even though the heaters are not actually compliant. Warren sought damages and injunctive relief under the Lanham Act for false advertising and contributory false advertising, damages under the common law of unfair competition, and declaratory and injunctive relief under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA).The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tutco's and UL's joint motion to dismiss. In this case, Warren calls UL's authorization to Tutco to use UL's mark, and Tutco's advertisements to that effect, "misrepresentations," but it really means nothing more than (by its lights) a "misinterpretation" of UL 1995. However, it does not follow, that even a misinterpretation of UL 1995 is a falsity -- or a "deceptive act" within the meaning of the Lanham Act -- rather than a matter of opinion, provided it was made in good faith and in accordance with OSHA's criteria for independence, procedural regularity, etc. The court held that, because all of Warren's claims against UL and Tutco are based upon the same allegation of falsity, they fail for want of a misrepresentation or a deceptive act. View "Warren Technology, Inc. v. UL LLC" on Justia Law

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The court-appointed receiver filed suit against JPMC, seeking to recover funds that were fraudulently diverted from the Receivership Entities' bank accounts in connection with a Ponzi scheme. The complaint sought to avoid the fraudulent transfers and recover the diverted funds on behalf of the Receivership Entities under the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (FUFTA), and to collect damages from JPMC for JPMC's alleged aiding and abetting of three torts: breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and fraud.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the receiver failed to state a claim under FUFTA because he failed to allege an applicable conveyance or fraudulent transfer. The court also held that the receiver lacked standing to assert, on behalf of the Receivership Entities, claims against JPMC for allegedly aiding and abetting the Ponzi schemers' breach of fiduciary duties, conversion, and fraud. Finally, the court noted that the district court did not abuse its discretion in staying discovery pending resolution of JPMC's motion to dismiss. View "Isaiah v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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BBX filed suit challenging the FDIC's determination that the severance payments BBX sought to make to five former executives of the Bank were golden parachute payments and that it would approve payments of only twelve months of salary to each executive. The FDIC also concluded that BBT was required to seek and receive approval before making the reimbursement payments to BBX. The FRB subsequently approved the same payment amounts but took no action with respect to approving any payments over 12 months of salary because the FDIC had already prohibited any additional payments.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of BBX's action against FRB for lack of standing because BBX has not shown any injury it has sustained is fairly traceable to an FRB action or inaction. The court also held that the FDIC's decision to classify the proposed payments as golden parachute payments was not arbitrary or capricious, because the golden parachute statute, 12 U.S.C. 1828(k), covers the stock purchase agreement (SPA) and the proposed payments included therein. Furthermore, earlier agreements, such as severance contracts, are irrelevant because the proposed payments are being made under the SPA. The court held that the FDIC's denial of any payments in excess of 12 months' salary for each executive was not arbitrary and capricious where the explanations the FDIC offered for denying additional payments were reasonable and did not run counter to the evidence. Finally, the court rejected BBX's argument that the FDIC's requirement that BBT seek approval before reimbursing BBX was arbitrary and capricious. View "BBX Capital v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the tax court's order denying taxpayer's motion to restrain collection to the extent it related to the gross valuation-misstatement penalty. At issue was whether, under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), a tax court presiding over partner-level deficiency proceedings has jurisdiction over a gross valuation-misstatement penalty previously determined to be applicable at the partnership level where the partnership was determined to be a "sham" and "lacking economic substance."The court held that the Internal Revenue Code, as in effect during the relevant time, applicable regulations, and Supreme Court precedent make clear that the valuation-misstatement penalty at issue here relates to an adjustment to a partnership item and, consequently, is explicitly excluded from the tax court's deficiency jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court held that the tax court presiding over partner-level deficiency proceedings does not have jurisdiction over gross valuation misstatement penalties imposed against a partnership previously determined to be a "sham" and "lacking economic substance." View "Highpoint Tower Technology Inc. v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law