Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al.
Competing trade associations offered memberships to home inspectors, who typically inspect homes prior to home sales. Benefits of membership in the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) included online advertising to home buyers, educational resources, online training, and free services such as logo design. From 2015 to 2020, ASHI featured the slogan “American Society of Home Inspectors. Educated. Tested. Verified. Certified” on its website. Contending that tagline mislead consumers, InterNACHI sued ASHI under the federal Lanham Act, claiming the line constituted false advertising because it inaccurately portrayed ASHI’s entire membership as being educated, tested, verified, and certified, even though its membership includes so-called “novice” inspectors who had yet to complete training or become certified. InterNACHI argued this misleading advertising and ASHI’s willingness to promote novice inspectors to the public caused InterNACHI to lose potential members and dues revenues. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ASHI, concluding no reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s allegedly false commercial advertising. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred: because InterNACHI did not present any evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s slogan, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for ASHI. View "Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al." on Justia Law
USA Power, LLC v. PacifiCorp
USA Power, LLC developed a power plant project in Mona, Utah called the “Spring Canyon vision.” Meanwhile, PacifiCorp entered into negotiations to purchase USA Power’s Spring Canyon assets, and USA Power provided PacifiCorp with details on the entire project. PacifiCorp terminated the negotiations, however, and began construction on a power plant project in Mona that was very similar to the Spring Canyon project. PacifiCorp also retained Jody Williams, USA Power’s former attorney, to help it obtain water rights for its project, called the Currant Creek project. USA Power brought suit against Williams, asserting malpractice claims for Williams’s alleged breach of her fiduciary duties of confidentiality and loyalty, and against PacifiCorp, alleging misappropriation of USA Power’s trade secrets. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the jury returned a special verdict against PacifiCorp and Williams. The trial court reduced the unjust enrichment award against PacifiCorp, granted Williams’s judgment notwithstanding the verdict motion for lack of evidence related to causation, and determined that USA was entitled to attorney fees. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s rulings as to each issue presented on appeal, holding that the court did not err in its judgment. View "USA Power, LLC v. PacifiCorp" on Justia Law
Sloan v. Law Office of Oscar C. Gonzalez, Inc.
Plaintiff sued Defendants, attorneys Eric Turton and Oscar Gonzalez and the Law Office of Oscar C. Gonzalez, alleging that they misappropriated $75,000 in trust funds that Turton received after settling a case on Plaintiff’s behalf. The jury found that all three defendants were engaged in a joint enterprise and a joint venture with respect to Plaintiff’s case and committed various torts in relation to Plaintiff. In response to a proportionate-responsibility question, the jury assigned forty percent to Turton, thirty percent to Gonzalez, and thirty percent to the Law Office. The trial court entered judgment holding all three defendants jointly and severally liable for actual damages, pre-judgment interest, additional Texas Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act damages, and attorney’s fees. Gonzalez and the Law Office appealed. The court of appeals concluded that Plaintiff could only recover for professional negligence, which amounted to $77,500 in actual damages. The court’s opinion did not address the jury’s proportionate-responsibility findings but nonetheless applied those findings in its judgment, ordering Gonzalez and the Law Firm to each pay Sloan $23,250. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred by failing to address the sufficiency of the evidence of a joint enterprise or joint venture or the legal implications of those findings. Remanded. View "Sloan v. Law Office of Oscar C. Gonzalez, Inc." on Justia Law
Saint Consulting Group, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty, Inc.
This dispute between The Saint Consulting Group (Saint) and its liability insurer, Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company (Endurance), stemmed from Endurance's refusal to defend Saint in a lawsuit against Saint in the Northern District of Illinois. The district court dismissed Saint's lawsuit against Endurance based on an exclusion in the policy that stated explicitly that the policy does not apply to any claim based upon or arising out of any actual or alleged violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act or any similar provision of any state law. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the second complaint alleged that Saint engaged in an anti-competitive scheme the exclusion was triggered; and (2) the policy did not cover the negligent spoliation claim in the first complaint. View "Saint Consulting Group, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty, Inc." on Justia Law