Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law

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Roger Garling, Sheryl Garling, and their business, R and D Enterprises, Inc. sued the United States for damages arising from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raid and investigation of their laboratory. The district court held the Garlings’ action was time-barred under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The Garlings appealed, arguing the EPA’s conduct was a continuing tort or, alternatively, that they were entitled to equitable tolling. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that sovereign immunity barred the Garlings’ claims and the district court thus lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with directions to dismiss this action for lack of jurisdiction. View "Garling v. EPA" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation (“Lenox”) sued several related corporations, Medtronic, Inc.; Medtronic PS Medical, Inc. (“PS Medical”); Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. (“MSD, Inc.”); and Medtronic Sofamor Danek Co. Ltd. (“MSD Japan”) (collectively, “Defendants”), for monopolization and attempted monopolization in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act. Lenox alleged that Defendants engaged in illegal activity to advance a coordinated, anticompetitive scheme in which a related non-party, Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA, Inc. (“MSD USA”), also participated. Lenox sued MSD USA in 2007 on claims arising from the same set of facts. In this case, Lexon challenged the district court’s disposition of Defendants’ second motion for summary judgment, which claimed that Lenox could not prove the elements of its antitrust claims against any of the named Defendants individually, and that Defendants cannot be charged collectively with the conduct of MSD USA or of each other. They also argued that the doctrine of claim preclusion barred Lenox’s claims, in light of the prior proceeding against MSD USA. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that because Lenox could not establish each of the elements of an antitrust claim against any one defendant, or establish a conspiracy among them, Lenox’s claims failed as a matter of law. Lenox appealed. But finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic" on Justia Law

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Auraria Student Housing at the Regency, LLC (Regency) sued Campus Village after the University of Colorado-Denver (UCD) instituted a residency requirement which forced a significant portion of its freshmen and international students to live at Campus Village. Campus Village was also an apartment complex located outside the boundaries of the UCD Campus. But the University of Colorado Real Estate Foundation (CUREF) was the sole member of Campus Village, and CUREF operated Campus Village for the benefit of the University of Colorado system. Although Regency alleged that UCD participated in the conspiracy, it named only Campus Village as a defendant in this litigation. On appeal of a jury verdict finding that Campus Village violated section two of the Sherman Antitrust Act based on its conspiracy with UCD to monopolize commerce, Campus Village argued principally that the district court erred by not requiring Regency to define the "relevant market" Campus Village allegedly conspired to monopolize. Specifically, it claimed recent Supreme Court and Tenth Circuit authority mandated that plaintiffs identify both the relevant geographic and product markets to recover under section 2, including for conspiracy-to-monopolize claims. The Tenth Circuit agreed, finding that Regency failed to identify the relevant marked in this case. But because Regency reasonably relied on the Tenth Circuit's contrary holding in "Salco Corp. v. Gen. Motors Corp.," (517 F.2d 567 (1975)), the Court instructed the district court to provide Regency an opportunity to define the relevant market on remand. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit vacated the jury verdict and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Auraria Student Housing v. Campus Village Apartments" on Justia Law

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The complaint and referenced documents show that Quiznos fast-food franchise had borrowed heavily before its business sharply declined. From 2007 to 2011, Quiznos lost roughly 3,000 franchise restaurants and profitability plunged. With this plunge, Quiznos could no longer satisfy its loan covenants. As a result, Avenue Capital Management II, L.P., “Fortress” (a collective of investment entities) and others could foreclose on collateral, call in debt, or accelerate payments. To avoid a calamity, Quiznos restructured its debt. This securities-fraud matter arose out of the attempt to restructure that debt. Multiple investment funds purchased equity in Quiznos, and despite efforts, Avenue and Fortress sued former Quiznos managers and officers, claiming they had fraudulently misrepresented Quiznos’ financial condition. The district court dismissed the causes of action based on securities fraud based on a failure to state a valid claim. Finding no reversible error in that dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Avenue Capital Management II, v. Schaden" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellants Ultegra Financial, its CEO Muhammad Howard, (collectively Ultegra Defendants) and Clive Funding, Inc., appealed a district court’s order denying their motion to compel arbitration. In 2013, Ragab entered into business relationship with the Ultegra Defendants. The parties had six agreements. The agreements contained conflicting arbitration provisions; the conflicts involved: (1) which rules would govern, (2) how the arbitrator would be selected, (3) the notice required to arbitrate, and (4) who would be entitled to attorneys’ fees and on what showing. In 2015, Ragab sued the Ultegra Defendants for misrepresentation and for violating several consumer credit repair statutes. The district court found that Ragab’s claims fell within the scope of all six agreements. The Ultegra Defendants moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion to compel, concluding that there was no actual agreement to arbitrate as there was no meeting of the minds as to how claims that implicated the numerous agreements would be arbitrated. The Ultegra Defendants appealed that finding, and seeing no reversible error in the judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Ragab v. Howard" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between two competing prefabricated steel building companies in Colorado. Defendants-Appellants Atlantic Building Systems, LLC d/b/a Armstrong Steel Corporation and its CEO, Ethan Chumley (collectively, “Armstrong Steel”), appealed the district court’s denial of immunity under the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). The underlying dispute involved Armstrong Steel’s negative online advertising campaign against General Steel. When internet users searched for “General Steel,” negative advertisements from Armstrong Steel would appear on the results page. Clicking on the advertisements would direct users to Armstrong Steel’s web page entitled, “Industry Related Legal Matters” (“IRLM Page”). General Steel brought four claims: (1) unfair competition and unfair trade practices under the Lanham Act, (2) libel and libel per se, (3) intentional interference with prospective business advantage, and (4) civil conspiracy. Armstrong Steel sought summary judgment, claiming immunity from suit and liability under Section 230 of the CDA. The district court found that Armstrong Steel was entitled to immunity for three posts because those posts simply contained links to content created by third parties. The court refused, however, to extend CDA immunity to the remaining seventeen posts and the internet search ads. The court found that the “defendants created and developed the content of those ads,” and were therefore not entitled to immunity. After review, the Tenth Circuit dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that the CDA provided immunity from liability, not suit, and the district court’s order did not qualify under the collateral order doctrine. View "General Steel Domestic Sales v. Chumley" on Justia Law

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Vehicle Market Research, Inc. (VMR) sued Mitchell International, Inc. (Mitchell) to recover royalties Mitchell allegedly owed pursuant to a software licensing agreement. The jury returned a verdict for Mitchell, and VMR appealed. VMR argued: (1) the district court erred by allowing Mitchell, contrary to the law of the case doctrine, to cross-examine VMR’s sole shareholder on the value of VMR as he stated in his personal bankruptcy; and (2) the district court erred in omitting part of VMR’s proposed jury instruction on Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses. Finding no error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Vehicle Market Research v. Mitchell International" on Justia Law

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Prior to petitioner-appellant Corbin McNeill retiring as an executive to a utility company, "he came across a complicated little scheme suggested by some well-heeled tax advisors." At its core, the scheme was to transfer to McNeill losses that foreign debt holders had already suffered: McNeill would claim the losses as deductions against his income; the foreign debt holders would transfer their assets for a slight premium over their current (and much reduced) market value because McNeill could use them to secure a tax advantage they didn’t need. To accomplish this, McNeill's tax advisors established a series of partnerships to which the foreign debt holders contributed their underwater debt instruments and their basis in them. McNeill contributed a relatively small sum of money, but owned over 90% of the partnership. When the partnership sold the debt to third parties, it could claim to realize the whole of the losses, and McNeill could claim his income was offset by the losses. In aid of the scheme, various accounting and law firms supplied opinion letters affirming that the scheme would withstand IRS scrutiny. The IRS indeed questioned McNeill's partnerships, and determined McNeill owed back taxes. McNeill paid the tax then filed suit seeking a partial refund. McNeill didn’t suggest that the partnership scheme was lawful or that he should have been excused the taxes the IRS assessed. Instead, he argued only that he should have been excused from the penalties and associated interest the IRS had imposed. The district court declined to decide the merits of McNeill’s partner level defense, holding it was precluded from doing so by Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA). The Tenth Circuit concluded this judgment was made in error, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mc Neill v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Forney Industries, Inc.'s product packaging has, since at least 1989, used some combination of red, yellow, black, and white coloration. The issue in this case was whether Forney's use of colors in its metalworking product line was a protected mark under the Lanham Act. Forney alleged that Defendant Daco of Missouri, Inc., which did business as KDAR Co. (KDAR), infringed on its protected mark by packaging KDAR’s “Hot Max” products with similar colors and a flame motif. The district court granted summary judgment to KDAR and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. Forney’s use of color, which was not associated with any particular shape, pattern, or design, was not adequately defined to be inherently distinctive, and Forney failed to produce sufficient evidence that its use of color in its line of products had acquired secondary meaning. View "Forney Industries v. Daco of Missouri" on Justia Law

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CEEG (Shanghai) Solar Science & Technology Co., Ltd. (“CEEG”), a Chinese company, agreed to sell solar energy products to LUMOS, LLC, a U.S. company. After receiving certain shipments, LUMOS filed a warranty claim alleging workmanship defects, and refused to remit the balance due. After two years of "fitful" negotiations, CEEG filed an arbitration proceeding pursuant to the parties’ agreements. Although the parties had communicated exclusively in English to that point, CEEG served LUMOS with a Chinese-language notice of the proceedings, and LUMOS did not immediately realize what the notice was. After the arbitration panel ruled in its favor, CEEG moved for the district court to confirm the award. LUMOS filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Chinese-language notice caused it to miss the deadline to participate in appointing the arbitration panel. The district court granted the motion, finding that the notice was not reasonably calculated to apprise LUMOS of the arbitration proceedings. The Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed. View "CEEG (Shanghai) Solar Science v. Lumos" on Justia Law