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

Articles Posted in Business Law
by
Plaintiffs sell products as third-party merchants through Amazon’s “Fulfilled by Amazon” (“FBA”) program. Prior to October 2019, California required FBA merchants to collect and pay sales tax on sales to California residents. California’s Marketplace Facilitator Act altered that requirement. However, the Marketplace Facilitator Act is not retroactive and the Department continued to seek sales tax remittances from third-party FBA merchants for pre-October 2019 sales.Plaintiffs claimed that the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s tax collection efforts against Guild members violated the Due Process, Equal Protection, Privileges and Immunities, and Commerce Clauses of the United States Constitution, as well as the Internet Tax Freedom Act, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 151. The district court granted the Department’s motion to dismiss, holding that the Guild’s claims were barred by the Tax Injunction Act (“TIA”), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1341.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the district cour properly dismissed the action pursuant to the TIA, which bars federal jurisdiction over the Guild’s claims because the Guild seeks an injunction that would to some degree stop the assessment or collection of a state tax and an adequate state law remedy exists. View "ONLINE MERCHANTS GUILD V. NICOLAS MADUROS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law
by
Plaintiff alleges that Schwab Charitable, its board of directors, and its Investment Oversight Committee breached their fiduciary duties under California law by partnering with Schwab & Co.—a legally separate but closely related company—for brokerage, custodial, and administrative services. Plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. After Defendants moved to dismiss, the district court held that Plaintiff lacked standing under Article III and statutory standing under California law. The district court allowed Plaintiff to amend his complaint, but he notified the district court that he did not intend to do so, and instead wished to appeal. The district court then entered judgment for the defendants. Plaintiff timely appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, holding that Plaintiff did not have Article III standing to sue Schwab Charitable Fund for allegedly breaching its fiduciary duties by, among other things, deducting excessive fees from Plaintiff’s donor-advised fund. The panel held that it need not decide whether Plaintiff’s arguments, regarding his purported need to contribute more to the DAF and related impact on his reputation and expressive rights, were cognizable in general because Plaintiff did not allege that he had experienced or will experience any of these purported injuries. The panel concluded that Plaintiff had not adequately alleged standing based on these theories of injury. View "PHILIP PINKERT V. SCHWAB CHARITABLE FUND, ET AL" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs alleged that ViSalus, Inc., sent them automated telephone calls featuring an artificial or prerecorded voice message without prior express consent. The jury returned a verdict against ViSalus, finding that it sent 1,850,440 prerecorded calls in violation of the TCPA. Because the TCPA sets the minimum statutory damages at$500 per call, the total damages award against ViSalus was $925,220,000. Nearly two months later, the FCC granted ViSalus a retroactive waiver of the heightened written consent and disclosure requirements. ViSalus then filed post-trial motions to decertify the class, grant judgment as a matter of law, or grant a new trial on the ground that the FCC’s waiver necessarily meant ViSalus had consent for the calls made. Alternatively, ViSalus filed a post-trial motion challenging the statutory damages award as being unconstitutionally excessive. The district court denied these motions.Affirming in part, the panel held that members of the plaintiff class had Article III standing to sue because the receipt of unsolicited telemarketing phone calls in alleged violation of the TCPA is a concrete injury.The panel held that, when ruling on ViSalus’s motions to decertify the class, grant judgment as a matter of law, or grant a new trial, the district court properly refused to consider the FCC’s retroactive waiver. The panel explained that ViSalus waived a consent defense, and no intervening change in law excused this waiver of an affirmative defense.The panel vacated the district court’s denial of ViSalus’s post-trial motion challenging the constitutionality of the statutory damages award under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. View "LORI WAKEFIELD V. VISALUS, INC." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff hospices exceeded their aggregate caps in the 2013 fiscal year, and three Silverado hospices also exceeded their aggregate caps in the 2014 fiscal year. Plaintiffs appealed their cap determinations to the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (“PRRB”), arguing that their MAC had failed to calculate the aggregate cap using the “actual net amount of payment received by the hospice provider.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the government.   The court held that CMS correctly concluded that the Budget Control Act required it to reduce the total annual amounts paid to hospices, not only the periodic reimbursements, and that the agency’s chosen method for implementing sequestration was consistent with the Medicare statute. The court further held that the agency was not required to undertake notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the Budget Control Act’s sequestration mandate. The agency’s sequestration method, as reflected in the TDL and the PRRB’s decisions, did not amount to the “establish[ment]” or “change[]” of a substantive legal standard governing payment for services under Medicare, within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. Section 1395hh. Rather, Congress enacted the Budget Control Act’s sequestration requirements, and the President implemented sequestration when the statutory conditions were triggered. View "SILVERADO HOSPICE, INC. V. XAVIER BECERRA" on Justia Law

by
The dispute at issue is between Jones Day and one of its former partners, a German national who was based in its Paris office until he left to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (“Orrick”). Jones Day’s partnership agreement provides for mandatory arbitration of all disputes among partners, and that all such arbitration proceedings are governed by the FAA. The partnership dispute proceeded to arbitration in Washington D.C., the location designated in the arbitration agreement.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order denying Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick to comply with an arbitrator’s subpoena. First, the court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the action to enforce arbitral summonses issued by the arbitrator in an ongoing international arbitration being conducted in Washington, D.C., under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, known as the New York Convention. The court further held that venue was proper in the Northern District of California. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to enforce Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick and its partners to comply with the arbitral summonses. View "JONES DAY V. ORRICK, HERRINGTON & SUTCLIFFE" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit panel held that defendant was not required to disgorge to CytoDyn his short-swing profits from exercising options and warrants granted by CytoDyn, entitling him to purchase and later sell CytoDyn shares. The panel held that the short-swing transaction fell within an exemption, set forth in SEC Rule 16b-3(d)(1) because the option and warrant award was “approved by the board of directors” of CytoDyn. The circuit court concluded that the affirmative votes of three of CytoDyn’s five board members, at a meeting where only four board members were present, were sufficient, and a unanimous decision was not required under either the plain text of Rule 16-3(d)(1), Delaware corporate law, or CytoDyn’s bylaws.The court left the determination of what a corporate board must do to approve insider-issuer acquisitions to the laws of the state where the corporation is incorporated. Reasoning that federal securities law defers to—and does not displace—the state laws governing corporate boards. Thus, the circuit court affirmed the district court’s ruling. View "ALPHA VENTURE CAPITAL PARTNERS V. NADER POURHASSAN" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Nevada the following question: Under Nevada law, must a series LLC created pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. 86.296 be sued in its own name for a court to obtain jurisdiction over it, or may the master LLC under which the series is created be sued instead? View "Federal Housing Finance Agency v. Saticoy Bay, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, alleging unfair competition in violation of section 43 of the Lanham Act. A jury found that defendants engaged in materially false or misleading advertising about their competing whale-watching-cruise business in violation of the Lanham Act, but awarded $0 in actual damages and declined to award an equitable remedy of disgorgement of profits. The district court then issued a permanent injunction prohibiting defendants from engaging in specified future acts of false advertising, denied plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees, and entered judgment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment to the extent that it denies an award of profits and remanded for a new trial on that issue. The panel concluded that, under Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., 140 S. Ct. 1492 (2020), the district court erred in instructing the jury on the element of willfulness. Instead, defendant's mental state is a highly important consideration in determining whether an award of profits is appropriate. The panel declined plaintiffs' request to remand the case with specific instructions to conduct a new jury trial, declining to apply judicial estoppel to either side and holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c) does not require that the retrial on remand be a jury trial. The panel also vacated the district court's attorneys' fee determination because retrial of the disgorgement issue could affect the assessment of some of the relevant circumstances. View "Harbor Breeze Corp. v. Newport Landing Sportfishing, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
by
Ngo purchased a BMW. The dealership financed Ngo’s purchase; the purchase agreement contained an arbitration clause. As a result of alleged defects with the car, Ngo sued BMW, the manufacturer, which was not a signatory to the purchase agreement. BMW moved to compel arbitration. The district court granted the motion, finding BMW to be a third-party beneficiary.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Under California law, a nonsignatory is a third-party beneficiary only to a contract made expressly for its benefit. Any benefit that BMW might receive from the clause was peripheral and indirect because it was predicated on the decisions of others to arbitrate. The purchase agreement was drafted with the primary "motivating purpose" of securing benefits for the contracting parties; third parties were not the purposeful beneficiaries of that undertaking. Nothing in the contract evinced any intention that the arbitration clause should apply to BMW. The parties easily could have indicated that the contract was intended to benefit BMW but did not do so. The court declined to apply equitable estoppel to compel arbitration. Ngo did not allege any “concerted misconduct.” BMW was mistaken that, under the Song-Beverley and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Acts, Ngo’s claims were inextricably intertwined with the terms of the purchase agreement. View "Ngo v. BMW of North America, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Uber’s wholly-owned Dutch subsidiaries retained Rattagan, an Argentinian attorney, to serve as their legal representative in Buenos Aires in connection with a new Uber subsidiary in Argentina. Uber representatives from San Francisco allegedly assumed responsibility for communicating with Rattagan. According to Rattagan, Uber launched its platform in Argentina before its subsidiary was registered with the proper tax authority, despite knowing that Rattagan, as the entities’ legal representative, could be subject to personal liability for Uber’s violations of Argentine law. Law enforcement authorities raided Rattagan’s office and the homes of his business colleagues; his offices were surrounded by protestors and he received negative press. Rattagan later was charged with aggravated tax evasion for his perceived involvement with the Uber launch.Rattagan sued for negligence, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent concealment, and aiding and abetting fraudulent concealment. Applying California law, the district court dismissed, as time-barred, Rattagan’s negligence and breach of the implied covenant claims, and held that the fraudulent concealment claims were foreclosed by the economic loss rule, which prevents a party to a contract from recovering economic damages resulting from breach of contract under tort theories. The Ninth Circuit noted that Rattagan’s appeal hinges on whether fraudulent concealment claims are exempt from California’s economic loss rule and certified that question to the California Supreme Court. View "Rattagan v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law