Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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A 2019 Arizona statute prohibits auto dealer management system (DMS) providers from “tak[ing] any action by contract, technical means or otherwise to prohibit or limit a dealer’s ability to protect, store, copy, share or use” data the dealer has stored in its DMS. DMS providers may not impose charges “beyond any direct costs incurred” for database access. DMS providers may not prohibit the third parties contracted by the dealers “from integrating into the dealer’s data system,” nor may they otherwise “plac[e] an unreasonable restriction on integration.” DMS providers must “[a]dopt and make available a standardized framework for the exchange, integration, and sharing of data” with authorized integrators.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction against the statute’s enforcement. There is no conflict preemption; the statute and the federal Copyright Act are not irreconcilable. The statute does not conflict with 17 U.S.C. 106(1), which grants the owner of a copyrighted work the exclusive right “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.” The plaintiffs forfeited their claim that the statute impaired their contracts with third-party vendors and did not show that the statute impaired their ability to discharge their contractual duty to keep dealer data confidential. The statute was reasonably drawn to serve important public purposes of promoting consumer data privacy and competition and amounted to neither a per se physical taking nor a regulatory taking. View "CDK Global LLC v. Brnovich" on Justia Law

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Competitors BladeRoom and Emerson began negotiating a sale of BladeRoom to Emerson. They signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The negotiations fell through. Facebook selected Emerson’s proposal for a data center. BladeRoom sued. Emerson proposed a jury instruction that would have excluded information disclosed or used after August 17, 2013, from its liability for breach of contract, which Emerson argued was the date of the contract’s expiration. The district court agreed that the NDA’s confidentiality obligations did not expire under paragraph 12 of the NDA. The jury found that Emerson breached the NDA and willfully and maliciously misappropriated BladeRoom’s trade secrets and awarded $10 million in lost profits and $20 million in unjust enrichment. The district court later awarded BladeRoom $30 million in punitive damages.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Paragraph 12’s natural meaning unambiguously terminated the NDA and its confidentiality obligations two years after it was signed. The court treated the district court’s error as an error of jury instruction and addressed issues for consideration on the awards of damages and prejudgment interest should they be determined after a new trial. Under California law, a party cannot collect punitive damages for breach of contract awards. On remand, the district court must take several steps to allocate damages and should consider adopting a more detailed special verdict form. View "BladeRoom Group Ltd. v. Emerson Electric Co." on Justia Law

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California Senate Bill 826 requires all corporations headquartered in California to have a minimum number of females on their boards of directors. Corporations that do not comply with SB 826 may be subject to monetary penalties. The shareholders of OSI, a corporation covered by SB 826, elect members of the board of directors. One shareholder of OSI challenged the constitutionality of SB 826 on the ground that it requires shareholders to discriminate on the basis of sex when exercising their voting rights, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. The plaintiff plausibly alleged that SB 826 requires or encourages him to discriminate based on sex and, therefore, adequately alleged an injury-in-fact, the only Article III standing element at issue. Plaintiff’s alleged injury was also distinct from any injury to the corporation, so he could bring his own Fourteenth Amendment challenge and had prudential standing to challenge SB 826. The injury was ongoing and neither speculative nor hypothetical, and the district court could grant meaningful relief. The case was therefore ripe and not moot. View "Meland v. Weber" on Justia Law

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After Uber’s founding in 2009, its valuation soared, with some investors assigning a valuation as high as $68 billion by mid-2016. Between June 2014 and May 2016, Kalanick, Uber’s founder, and Uber completed four preferred stock offerings, raising more than $10 billion in additional capital through limited partnerships and other entities. Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund acquired Uber securities on February 16, 2016. In 2017, several alleged corporate scandals surfaced. By early 2018, investors estimated a nearly 30% decline in Uber’s valuation. Irving filed a putative class action against Uber and Kalanick alleging securities fraud under California Corporations Code sections 25400(d) and 25500. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, upholding the use of the federal standard for loss causation rather than the “less-rigid state law standard.” Irving did not state a claim because it did not adequately allege that Uber and Kalanick’s alleged fraudulent misstatements and omissions caused its alleged losses. Even assuming actionable misstatements by Uber and Kalanick and that news articles, a lawsuit, and government investigations revealed the truth to the market, Irving did not adequately and with particularity allege that these revelations caused the resulting drop in Uber’s valuation. View "Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this admiralty case, Pacific Gulf, in possession of an arbitral award against Adamastos Shipping, tried to collect from Blue Wall and Vigorous Shipping on the grounds that they are either successors to or alter-egos of Adamastos. The district court dismissed the successor-liability claim and granted summary judgment to Blue Wall and Vigorous on the alter-ego claim.After determining that Pacific Gulf has standing, the panel applied federal common law and joined other courts in holding that maritime law requires a transfer of all or substantially all of the predecessor's assets to the alleged successor before successor liability will be imposed on that alleged successor. In this case, the panel concluded that Pacific Gulf has failed to plead that Blue Wall and its subsidiaries "comprise successor corporate business entities of" Adamastos. The panel explained that Pacific Gulf alleged no transfer of any assets (let alone all or substantially all) from Adamastos to Blue Wall or its subsidiaries. Therefore, because Pacific Gulf failed to plead a factual prerequisite to corporate successorship, the district court correctly dismissed the claim based on that theory.The panel also agreed with the district court that Pacific Gulf's discovery revealed nothing to allow a reasonable juror to rule in its favor on the alter-ego theory. Viewing the record as a whole, the panel considered the factors for determining whether a party has pierced the corporate veil and agreed with the district court that Pacific Gulf came away "empty handed" from discovery. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that either Blue Wall or Vigorous was operated as an alter-ego of Adamastos. View "Pacific Gulf Shipping Co. v. Vigorous Shipping & Trading S.A." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act, remanding for further proceedings. At issue is whether the First Amendment shields a publisher of supposedly independent product reviews if it has secretly rigged the ratings to favor one company in exchange for compensation. The panel ruled that this speech qualifies as commercial speech only, and that a nonfavored company may potentially sue the publisher for misrepresentation under the Lanham Act.In this case, Ariix alleges that NutriSearch rigged its ratings to favor Usana under a hidden financial arrangement. The panel held that Ariix plausibly alleges that the nutritional supplement guide is commercial speech, is sufficiently disseminated, and contains actionable statements of fact. However, the panel remanded for the district court to consider the "purpose of influencing" element under the Lanham Act. View "Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp." on Justia Law

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This case arises from the parties' dispute concerning a construction project to expand the Manhattan Village Shopping Center in Manhattan Beach, California. The parties' predecessors executed the Construction, Operation and Reciprocal Easement Agreement (the COREA) in 1980. The parties resolved disputes in a Settlement Agreement in 2008 where, under the terms of the settlement agreement, RREEF agreed not to oppose Hacienda's plan to convert office space into restaurants and Hacienda agreed not to oppose RREEF's expansion project subject to certain limitations in the Agreement. At issue is RREEF's project.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the nuisance claim and reversed the district court as to the remaining claims. In regard to the claim for breach of contract, the panel concluded that RREEF has discretion to pursue the project and alter the site plan, and Hacienda's objections to the city are limited to RREEF's material changes. That RREEF has discretion to revise the site plan does not mean that Hacienda gave up its rights under the COREA, especially considering that the Settlement Agreement, by its own terms, does not amend the COREA. In regard to the claim for interference with easement rights, the panel concluded that the Settlement Agreement does not extinguish plaintiffs' easement rights under the COREA, and the district court erred in holding otherwise. In regard to the claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue as to whether RREEF's construction of the North Deck was contrary to "the contract's purposes and the parties' legitimate expectations." In regard to the claim for interference with business and contractual relations, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have raised triable issues concerning whether defendants' construction interfered with Hacienda's tenant contracts, and whether defendants acted with the knowledge that "interference is certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of [their] action."The panel also reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief. In regard to RREEF's counterclaims, the panel concluded that policy considerations weighed against applying the litigation privilege. Finally, the panel concluded that the attorneys' fee question was moot and vacated the district court's order denying the parties' motions for attorneys' fees. View "3500 Sepulveda, LLC v. RREEF America REIT II Corp. BBB" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for ETC in an action brought by InteliClear, alleging that ETC misused its securities trading database. InteliClear alleged claims for trade secret misappropriations under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act.The panel held that: (1) there is a triable issue of fact as to whether (a) InteliClear described its alleged trade secrets with sufficient particularity and (b) InteliClear has shown that parts of the InteliClear System are secret; and (2) the district court abused its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) by issuing its summary judgment ruling before discovery occurred. View "InteliClear, LLC v. ETC Global Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oracle, owner of the proprietary Solaris software operating system, filed suit alleging that HPE improperly accessed, downloaded, copied, and installed Solaris patches on servers not under an Oracle support contract. Oracle asserted direct copyright infringement claims for HPE's direct support customers, and indirect infringement claims for joint HPE-Terix customers. The district court granted summary judgment for HPE.The Ninth Circuit held that the copyright infringement claim is subject to the Copyright Act's three year statute of limitations, which runs separately for each violation. The panel explained that Oracle's constructive knowledge triggered the statute of limitations and Oracle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the suspected infringement. The panel also held that the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim is barred by California's two year statute of limitations. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's partial summary judgment for HPE on the infringement and intentional interference claims. The panel also affirmed in part summary judgment on the indirect infringement claims for patch installations by Terix; reversed summary judgment on all infringement claims for pre-installation conduct and on the direct infringement claims for unauthorized patch installations by HPE; and addressed all other issues in a concurrently filed memorandum opinion. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of actor Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim under California Civil Code section 51.9 against producer Harvey Weinstein. Judd alleged that, in the late 1990s, Weinstein sexually harassed her during a general business meeting and derailed her potential involvement in the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" book trilogy.The panel held that, as alleged, section 51.9 plainly encompasses Judd and Weinstein's relationship, which was "substantially similar" to the "business, service, or professional relationship[s]" enumerated in the statute. The panel explained that the relationship between Judd and Weinstein was characterized by a considerable imbalance of power substantially similar to the imbalances that characterize the enumerated relationships in section 51.9. The panel stated that, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment. Furthermore, given Weinstein's highly influential and "unavoidable" presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate "without tangible hardship" to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles. The panel rejected Weinstein's arguments to the contrary and held that Judd sufficiently alleged a claim under section 51.9. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Judd v. Weinstein" on Justia Law