Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed defendant's motion to dismiss an action alleging that defendant tortiously interfered with plaintiff's employment contract and knowingly misrepresented company policy, both of which resulted in plaintiff's termination. The court held that the corporate officer privilege was inapplicable here; plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to establish the element of intentional inducement; the district court accurately held that plaintiff failed to state a claim for tortious interference with contract; plaintiff failed to allege a common law fraud claim; plaintiff was not entitled to leave to amend at this stage; and plaintiff's counsel's actions did not warrant sanctions under Judicial Code 1927. View "Webb v. Frawley" on Justia Law

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Bolson develops products and processes for use in 3D printing. Soarus is a distributor of specialty polymers, including G-Polymer. In 2009, Bolson and Soarus began discussing Bolson’s acquisition and use of GPolymer in connection with developing a new 3D printing process. Soarus sought to protect its rights in G-Polymer while also allowing for its potential entry into the lucrative 3D printing market. The parties executed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Soarus then provided Bolson with confidential information regarding G-Polymer and samples. Shortly after executing the NDA, Bolson filed a provisional patent for the 3D printing process it developed using G-Polymer; the 171 Patent issued in 2013. Soarus claimed that Bolson’s patent application revealed confidential information about G-Polymer, in violation of the NDA. The district court granted Bolson summary judgment, concluding that the plain meaning of the NDA, while conferring generally broad confidentiality protection on Bolson’s use of information about G-Polymer, authorized Bolson to use such confidential information in pursuing a patent in the specific area of the fused deposition method of 3D printing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The NDA clearly authorise Bolson to freely patent and protect new applications of GPolymer in the specified 3D printing process, not confined by the NDA’s confidentiality restrictions. View "Soarus L.L.C. v. Bolson Materials International Corp." on Justia Law

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Perez‐Gonzalez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for his role in a gang‐related killing and agreed to cooperate. His plea agreement stated: Any deviation from that truthful [testimony against a co-defendant] will be grounds for the [state] at [its] sole discretion–to withdraw its agreement to delete reference to a firearm as well as to withdraw its agreement to vacate the 15‐year add‐on. In such event, the defendant would then be required to serve the terms of the initial agreement. It makes no reference to refusal to testify. More than one year later, as the trial of a co‐defendant approached, Perez‐Gonzalez declined to testify. He was convicted of contempt of court, resulting in an additional 10‐year sentence. After exhausting his state court remedies, Perez‐Gonzalez sought habeas corpus relief, asserting the state breached the plea agreement by requesting the contempt sanction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, rejecting an argument that the plea agreement immunized Perez-Gonzalez from contempt proceedings. Although he presented a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, he has not proved that the state appellate court’s alternative interpretation was unreasonable; the agreement contained no express or implied promise that the state would not bring contempt charges. Perez‐Gonzalez must do more than provide an alternative reading of the plea agreement. View "Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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Packgen's customer, CRI, required a new type of intermediate bulk container (IBC) for a chemical catalyst used in refining crude oil into other petroleum products. The new IBC's outer surface consisted primarily of polypropylene fabric rather than metal; it could be collapsed for storage. CRI's catalyst is self-heating and can ignite when exposed to oxygen. Packgen engaged Berry to manufacture a laminate of woven polypropylene chemically bonded to aluminum foil, to strengthen the IBC’s exterior and serve as a barrier to oxygen, ultraviolet light, and infrared radiation. By April 2008, Packgen was selling an average of 1,261 IBCs per month to CRI and was making overtures to other petroleum refiners. While CRI personnel were lifting an IBC full of catalyst, the foil layer separated from the polypropylene, exposing the interior lining. Other failures followed, some resulting in fires. Packgen determined that foil laminate obtained from Berry was defective. CRI canceled pending orders and destroyed and refused to pay for IBCs that Packgen had provided. Word reached other potential Packgen customers. Packgen sued Berry. The First Circuit affirmed an award of $7.2 million in damages. Berry unsuccessfully demanded that Illinois National indemnify it for all but the first $1 million, which Berry’s primary liability insurer agreed to cover. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Illinois National. The policy covers damages that Berry is required to pay “because of … Property Damage.” While some portion of the lost profits award might be attributable to property damage, Berry did not attempt to make that showing. View "Berry Plastics Corp. v. Illinois National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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JTE, distributed products for Bimbo around Chicago under an agreement with no fixed duration that could be terminated in the event of a non-curable or untimely-cured breach. New York law governed all disputes. According to JTE, Bimbo began fabricating curable breaches in 2008 in a scheme to force JTE out as its distributor and install a less-costly distributor. Bimbo employees filed false reports of poor service and out-of-stock products in JTE’s distribution area and would sometimes remove products from store shelves, photograph the empty shelves as “proof” of a breach, and then return the products to their shelves. Once, a distributor caught a Bimbo manager in the act of fabricating a photograph. Bimbo assured JTE that this would never happen again. In 2011, Bimbo unilaterally terminated JTE’s agreement, citing the fabricated breaches, and forced JTE to sell its rights to new distributors. JTE claims that it did not learn about the scheme until 2013-2014. The district court dismissed JTE’s suit for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the primary-purpose test, the agreement qualifies as a contract for the sale of goods, governed by the UCC’s four-year statute of limitations, not by the 10-year period for other written contracts. With respect to tortious interference, the court reasoned that JTE knew about the shelving incidents and should not have “slumber[ed] on [its] rights” until it determined the exact way in which it was harmed. View "Heiman v. Bimbo Foods Bakeries Distribution Co." on Justia Law

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Sabafon, a telephone company based wanted cards to provide prepaid minutes of phone use plus a game of chance. Both the number for phone time and the symbols representing prizes were to be covered by a scratch-off coating. Emirat promised to supply Sabafon with 25 million high-security scratch-off cards. Emirat contracted with High Point Printing, which, in turn, engaged WS to do the work. Emirat paid High Point about $700,000. Three batches of the cards tested as adequately secure, but the testing company indicated that, under some circumstances, the digits and game symbols could be seen on some cards in a fourth batch. Emirat rejected the whole print run. High Point was out of business. Emirat sued WS, arguing that its settlement agreement with WS, after an initial run of cards was not correctly shipped, subjects WS to Emirat's contract with High Point. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for WS, noting that with a sufficiently high-tech approach, any security can be compromised, but no one will spend $1,000 to break the security of a card promising $50 worth of phone time. The contract is silent and does not promise any level of security, except through the possibility that usages of trade are read into every contract for scratch-off cards. Even if WS assumed High Point’s promises, neither promised any higher level of security than was provided. WS’s cards passed normal security tests repeatedly. View "Emirat AG v. WS Packaging Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009 Blanchard, a Chicago law firm, provided legal services to an Indian pharmaceutical company, Lupin India, and its American subsidiary, Lupin USA, concerning the patentability of a generic birth‐control drug that Lupin India planned to launch in the U.S. through Lupin USA. When the Lupin companies initially sought Blanchard’s advice, the firm sent an engagement letter outlining its hourly fees and other terms. Neither Lupin India nor Lupin USA signed the letter, but Blanchard provided the requested legal services and the companies, at first, paid the firm for its work. In October 2009 Blanchard sent its two final invoices, which went unpaid. Seven years later Blanchard sued the Lupin companies for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. A district judge dismissed both claims as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. The unjust enrichment claim is untimely, having accrued in 2009 when Blanchard furnished the services and the Lupin companies did not pay. The five‐year statute of limitations expired long before suit was commenced. The contract claim is timely, however. Though the engagement letter is unsigned, it counts as a written contract under Illinois limitations law, and the claim for breach is therefore governed by a ten‐year statute of limitations. View "Blanchard & Associates v. Lupin Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, BRC and Continental entered into a five‐year agreement. Continental was to sell to BRC approximately 1.8 million pounds of prime carbon black, annually, in approximately equal monthly quantities, with baseline prices for three grades, including N762, “to remain firm throughout the term.” Continental could meet any better offers that BRC received. Shipments continued regularly until March 2011, when demand began to exceed Continental’s production ability. Continental notified its buyers that N762 would be unavailable in May. BRC nonetheless placed an order. The parties dispute the nature of subsequent communications. Continental neither confirmed BRC’s order nor shipped N762. BRC demanded immediate shipment. Continental responded that it did “not have N762 available.” BRC purchased some N762 from another supplier at a higher price. Days later, Continental offered to ship N762 at price increases, which BRC refused to pay. After discussions, Continental sent an email stating that Continental would continue "shipping timely at the contract prices, and would not cut off supply” and would “ship one car next week.” Continental emphasized that the Agreement required it to supply about 150,000 pounds per month and that it already had shipped approximately 300,000 pounds per month. Continental shipped one railcar. Within a week, Continental emailed BRC seeking to increase the baseline prices and to accelerate payment terms. BRC sued, seeking its costs in purchasing from another supplier following Continental’s alleged repudiation. The Seventh Circuit rejected the characterization of the agreement as a requirements contract. On remand, BRC, without amending its complaint, pursued the alternative theory that the agreement is for a fixed-amount supply. The Seventh Circuit reversed summary judgment and remanded, finding the agreement, supported by mutuality and consideration, enforceable. The agreement imposed sufficiently definite obligations on both parties and was not an unenforceable "buyer's option." BRC can proceed in characterizing the contract as for a fixed amount. BRC altered only its legal characterization; its factual theory remained constant and Continental is not prejudiced by the change. View "BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. v. Continental Carbon Co." on Justia Law

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Carter, through broker Perkins, opened a commodities trading account to secure the prices his Wyoming ranch would receive for its cattle using financial instruments (hedging). After Perkins changed offices, those accounts were part of a “bulk transfer” to Straits. Carter did not sign new agreements. At Perkins’s request, Carter opened another Straits account to speculate in other categories. After Carter and Perkins split a $300,000 profit, Carter instructed Perkins to close the account. Perkins did not do so but continued speculating on Treasury Bond futures, losing $2 million over three months. Straits liquidated Carter’s livestock commodities holdings to satisfy most of the shortfall and sued for the deficiency. Carter established his right to the seized funds and an award of attorney fees but the court significantly reduced damages, finding that Carter failed to mitigate by not closely reading account statements and trading confirmations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the interpretation of the contract but remanded for recalculation of damages. Finding Carte responsible for losses resulting from Perkins's fraud would apply a guarantee or ratification that was never given. Fraud victims are not responsible for their agent’s fraud before they learn of unauthorized activity. Under Illinois law, the injured party must have actual knowledge before it must act to mitigate its damages. The court affirmed the attorney fee award under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. View "Straits Financial LLC v. Ten Sleep Cattle Co." on Justia Law

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Pronschinske entered into a Mining Leasing Agreement, giving Kaw the right to mine the sand, stone and rock products on the Pronschinske land but providing that it was not obligated to extract any materials or sell any product. Kaw decided not to mine the land and terminated the lease through its provisions. Pronschinske filed suit alleging that Kaw owed $400,000 as payment of a Commencement Royalty credit and a Minimum Production Royalty. The district court granted Kaw summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to production royalties. Pronschinske argued that paragraph 6 reflected a stand‐alone requirement of a minimum annual payment of $75,000 beginning with the first anniversary of the Effective Date, regardless of what actions are taking place on the property, reading “[n]otwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein” as meaning that its location in paragraph 6 is irrelevant and that it represents a minimum annual payment unconnected to Production Royalties generally. Kaw argued that the “notwithstanding” language references the paragraph in which it is found, and means that notwithstanding the calculation of Production Royalties in this paragraph, a minimum payment of $75,000 is owed once the Production Royalty provision is triggered. The court characterized the contract as unambiguous and concluded that the provision’s placement and the term “Production Royalty,” indicate it is inapplicable before the mining commences. View "Pronschinske Trust v. Kaw Valley Companies, Inc." on Justia Law