Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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Wanke, Industrial, Commercial, Residential, Inc. (Wanke) was a company that installed waterproofing systems. It sued Scott Keck and another of its former employees in 2008 for trade secret misappropriation after they left Wanke to form a competing business, WP Solutions. The parties entered into a stipulated settlement and later litigated Keck's alleged breach of that settlement agreement. To collect, Wanke filed a creditor's suit against third party AV Builder Corp. (AVB) to recover $109,327 that AVB owed WP Solutions in relation to five construction subcontracts. Following a bench trial, the court entered judgment in Wanke's favor for $83,418.94 after largely rejecting AVB's setoff claims. Invoking assignment principles, AVB contended: (1) Wanke lacked the ability to sue given judgment debtor WP Solutions's corporate suspension; (2) Wanke's suit was untimely under section 708.230 of the Code of Civil Procedure; and (3) the trial court erred in denying its request for warranty setoffs under section 431.70. Rejecting each of these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment View "Wanke, Industrial, Commercial, etc. v. AV Builder Corp." on Justia Law

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John and Jane Couto entered into a contract with Joseph General Contracting, Inc. for the purchase and construction of a home and carriage house. The trial court found that the contract existed also between the Coutos and Anthony Silvestri, the owner and president of Joseph General. After disputes arose regarding the construction of the dwellings, Joseph General sued the Coutos for, inter alia, breach of contract. The Coutos counterclaimed against Joseph General, Silvestri and Landel Realty, LLC. The trial court held Joseph General, Landel and Silvestri each jointly and severally liable for breach of contract and implied warranty, trespass and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). Silvestri appealed the propriety of these adverse rulings with respect to his personal liability. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment pertaining to Silvestri in an individual capacity. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court as to the claims of breach and contract and implied warranty against Silvestri in his individual capacity and affirmed in all other respects, holding that the Appellate Court (1) erred in determining that Silvestri had incurred contractual obligations to the Coutos in his individual capacity; and (2) properly determined that Silvestri could be held individually liable for alleged violations of CUTPA. View "Joseph Gen. Contracting, Inc. v. Couto" on Justia Law

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After leaving Gensler, an architectural firm with projects throughout the world, where he had been a Design Director, Strabala opened his own firm, 2Define Architecture. Strabala stated online that he had designed five projects for which Gensler is the architect of record. Gensler contends that Strabala’s statements, a form of “reverse passing off,” violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.1125(a). The district court dismissed, ruling that, because Strabala did not say that he built or sold these structures, he could not have violated section 43(a), reading the Supreme Court decision Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox (2003), to limit section 43(a) to false designations of goods’ origin. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that Gensler maintains that Strabala falsely claims to have been the creator of intellectual property. View "M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Assocs., Inc. v. Strabala" on Justia Law

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The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is composed of industry members, academicians, design professionals, and government officials. Its standards provide guidelines for refrigeration processes and design and maintenance of energy efficient buildings. Thermal manufactures liner insulation systems for nonresidential metal buildings. Thermal’s liner systems compete with “over-the-purlin systems,” which comprise about 90% of the market for metal building roof insulation systems. Since 1999, ASHRAE has published Standard 90.1, which rates the energy efficiency of insulation assemblies and has considerable influence in the commercial building industry. In 2011, the Department of Energy determined that Standard 90.1 would be the national commercial building reference standard; within two years every state had to certify that it had adopted a commercial building code that is at least as stringent as Standard 90.1. Until 2010, Standard 90.1 treated non-laminated metal building insulation assemblies, like Thermal’s liner systems, differently from other insulation assemblies. Owners had to obtain special permission to install liner systems. Thermal alleged that representatives of the North American Insulation Manufacturer’s Association and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, both of which have voting members on ASHRAE’s Envelope Subcommittee, procured this result by providing inaccurate data. ASHRAE declined to accept results of tests commissioned by Thermal. Thermal sued, alleging unfair competition, violation of Wisconsin’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, antitrust violations, and violation of the Lanham Act. The court rejected all of the claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Thermal Design, Inc. v. Am. Soc'y of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Eng'rs, Inc." on Justia Law

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In order to renovate a former warehouse building into administrative offices, Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (“School Corporation”) implemented a plan to convey the Building to the EVSC Foundation (“Foundation”), a private non-profit entity, have the Foundation contract with a contractor for the renovations, and then have the Foundation sell the Building back to the School Corporation. School Corporation officials selected this arrangement because the Foundation was not subject to public bidding laws, and therefore, the renovation could occur more quickly. Plaintiffs, several area contracting businesses paying taxes in the school district, filed an action against the School Corporation and the Foundation (together, “Defendants”) claiming that Defendants violated public bidding statutes and Indiana’s Antitrust Act. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, determining that the School Corporation engaged in the transactions to circumvent the public bidding statutes but that the transactions were not unlawful. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the project violated the Public Bidding Laws. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the portion of the court of appeals’ opinion holding that the scheme used by Defendants violated the Public Bidding Laws; and (2) concluded that Plaintiffs' antitrust claim failed because Plaintiffs did not present evidence of an antitrust injury. View "Alva Elec., Inc. v. Evansville-Vanderburgh Sch. Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1983, Appellant, the owner and chief executive officer of an asphalt company, pled guilty to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act for unlawfully bidding on state highway construction contracts. In order to have his company's privilege of bidding on new contracts reinstated, Appellant agreed to cooperate with the Attorney General's (AG) investigation and proffered information pertaining to Appellant's involvement in a scheme to "rig" bids for highway construction contracts with the Kentucky Department of Transportation. In 2009, reporters for several newspapers submitted an Open Records Act (ORA) request to have the proffer disclosed. When Appellant learned the AG intended to release the proper, Appellant brought this action against the AG and ORA reporters seeking to have the release enjoined under the privacy exemption or the law enforcement exemption to the ORA. In 2011, the trial court ruled that the proffer should be released to the ORA requestors. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not have standing to invoke the law enforcement exemption provision to the ORA; and (2) matters of sufficient public interest warranted an invasion of Appellant's limited privacy interest in keeping his proffer from being disclosed. View "Lawson v. Office of Attorney Gen." on Justia Law

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The Leonards entered into contracts with Centennial for the sale of a log home kit and construction of a custom log home. The Leonards later released Centennial from any claims for damages for defective construction or warranty arising out of the home's construction. Greg and Elvira Johnston held a thirty-six percent interest in the property at the time the release was signed. Eventually, all interest in the property was transferred to the Elvira Johnston Trust. A few years later, because of a number of construction defects affecting the structural integrity of the house, the Johnstons decided to demolish the house. The Johnstons sued Centennnial for negligent construction, breach of statutory and implied warranties, and other causes of action. The district court granted summary judgment for Centennial, finding that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and were waived by the Leonards' release. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's ruling that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and directed that the decision on remand apply only to the interest owned by the Johnstons at the time the release was executed; and (2) affirmed the district court's conclusion that the release was binding on the Leonards' sixty-four percent interest, later transferred to the Trust. View "Johnston v. Centennial Log Homes & Furnishings, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether nonunion Plaintiffs, Electrical Contractors, Inc. (ECI) and six of its employees had standing to challenge prebid specifications requiring the successful bidder on two state financed construction projects to perform all project work with union labor under the terms of a project labor agreement. The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of standing. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the claims of ECI against the city and other nonstate defendants, and affirmed the court's dismissal of ECI's claims against several state defendants, holding (1) the individual plaintiffs did not have standing to bring their claims; (2) ECI had standing to bring its claims against the nonstate defendants, as it had a colorable claim of injury; (3) ECI had standing to bring its claim against the city for violation of the Connecticut Antitrust Act; (4) Plaintiffs' claims were not preempted by federal labor law; and (5) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts that reasonably supported their claims against the state defendants, and therefore, the trial court's judgment could be affirmed on the alternative ground that Plaintiffs' claims against the state defendants were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.View "Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law

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Frederick and Mandelena Harmon bought a home pursuant to a buy-sell agreement that realtor Dianne Burright, a licensed real estate salesperson who worked for Fiscus Realty, prepared at the Fiscus Realty office. The home was built by Dianne's husband, Jerry. The Harmons subsequently discovered numerous construction problems. The Harmons sued Defendants Jerry and Dianne Burright and Fiscus Reality, raising several causing of action, including a claim under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (the Act). A jury returned a verdict against the Burrights on breach of warranty and negligent misrepresentation claims and held for Defendants on all other claims. After trial, Defendants filed motions for attorney fees as prevailing parties under the Act, which the district court denied. Fiscus Realty appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorney fees to Fiscus Realty as the Harmons' claims had a basis in fact and law and were not frivolous, unreasonable or unfounded.View "Harmon v. Fiscus Realty" on Justia Law