Articles Posted in Business Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Marlette Auto Wash, LLC claimed it had an easement through a parking lot owned by defendant Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC, for customers to access a car wash that plaintiff had purchased in 2007. Defendant counterclaimed, seeking to quiet title and obtain monetary damages for expenses relating to maintenance of the lot. The parties’ parcels were originally owned as a single unimproved tract of land; in 1988, land was to B & J Investment Company, which was owned in part by James Zyrowski, and split into two parcels. B & J opened a car wash on the corner parcel in 1989. Although the car wash was initially accessible from both the highway and the street, car wash customers generally used the parking lot of the adjoining parcel to get to and from the car wash. This adjoining parcel was sold to Marlette Development Corporation in 1988, which opened a shopping center in 1990. When Marlette Development’s deed was recorded, no easement was reserved for the benefit of the car wash property, and car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access. In 2000, the village of Marlette closed the street entrance to the car wash. Car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access without incident until Marlette Development sold its property to defendant in 2013. At this point, defendant’s sole owner, James Zyrowski informed plaintiff that unless it contributed money to maintain the parking lot, Zyrowski would close off access to the car wash through the parking lot. Plaintiff claimed a prescriptive easement for ingress and egress over defendant’s property on the basis of plaintiff’s open, notorious, adverse, and continuous use of that property for at least 15 years. The question presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether such use created a prescriptive easement that was appurtenant, without regard to whether the previous owner of the dominant estate took legal action to claim the easement. The answer to that inquiry is yes; the Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred by requiring plaintiff to establish privity of estate with the previous owner, regardless of whether plaintiff could establish that the elements of a prescriptive easement were satisfactorily met by that prior owner. Moreover, the Court of Appeals erred by holding that the previous owner of the dominant estate must have taken legal action to claim the prescriptive easement in order for plaintiff to prove that a prescriptive easement had vested during the preceding property owner’s tenure. “Title by adverse possession is gained when the period of limitations expires, not when legal action quieting title to the property is brought.” View "Marlette Auto Wash, LLC v. Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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MCL 450.4515(1)(e) provided alternative statutes of limitations: one based on the time of discovery of the cause of action and the other based on the time of accrual of the cause of action. Plaintiffs were former employees of defendant ePrize who acquired ownership units in the company. Plaintiffs alleged founder Jeff Linkner orally promised them that their interests in ePrize would never be diluted or subordinated. In its fifth operating agreement, executed in 2009, ePrize stock issued in Series C and Series B Units carried distribution priority over the common units held by plaintiffs. The Operating Agreement further provided that if the company were ever sold, Series C Units would receive the first $68.25 million of any available distribution. In 2012, ePrize sold substantially all of its assets and, pursuant to the Operating Agreement, distributed nearly $100 million in net proceeds to the holders of Series C and Series B Units. Plaintiffs received nothing for their common shares. Plaintiffs thereafter sued, bringing claims for LLC member oppression, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the three-year limitation period in MCL 450.4515(1)(e) constituted a statute of limitations, rather than a statute of repose, and that plaintiffs' claims accrued in 2009. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding plaintiffs’ claims did not accrue until 2012, when ePrize sold substantially all of its assets, because until that sale plaintiffs had not incurred a calculable financial injury and any damage claim before that time would have been “speculative.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that plaintiffs’ claims were timely filed before the expiration of the three-year limitation period. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed with the trial court's reasoning: plaintiffs’ actions for damages under MCL 450.4515(1)(e) were barred by the three-year statute of limitations unless plaintiffs could establish on remand that they were entitled to tolling. View "Frank v. Linkner" on Justia Law

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In 2007, plaintiff Innovation Ventures, LLC engaged defendants Andrew Krause and K & L Development of Michigan (K & L Development) to design, manufacture, and install manufacturing and packaging equipment for the production of "5-Hour ENERGY" at Liquid Manufacturing’s bottling plant. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review centered on whether agreements between sophisticated businesses were void for failure of consideration and whether the noncompete provisions in these agreements were reasonable. Innovation Ventures alleged a variety of tort and breach of contract claims against Liquid Manufacturing, LLC, K & L Development of Michigan, LLC, Eternal Energy, LLC, LXR Biotech, LLC, Peter Paisley, and Andrew Krause based on the defendants’ production of Eternal Energy and other energy drinks. Contrary to the determination of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that the parties’ Equipment Manufacturing and Installation Agreement (EMI) and Nondisclosure Agreement were not void for failure of consideration. The Court nevertheless affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants for the claims against Krause, because there was no genuine issue of material fact on the question whether Krause breached the EMI or the Nondisclosure Agreement. Likewise, there was no issue on the question whether K & L Development breached the EMI. The Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in failing to evaluate the noncompete provision in the parties’ Termination Agreement for reasonableness. The Court therefore reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for consideration of those questions of fact remaining regarding whether K & L Development breached the Nondisclosure Agreement and whether Liquid Manufacturing breached the Termination Agreement with respect to its production of products other than Eternal Energy. View "Innovation Ventures, LLC v. Liquid Manufacturing, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Defendant Benjamin Taub founded Dataspace, Incorporated, in 1994. In 2002, Taub hired plaintiff Rama Madugula as vice president of sales and business development for Dataspace. Around this time, Dataspace also hired an individual named Andrew Flower. Taub was Dataspace's sole shareholder until 2004, when Madugula and Flower became part owners, with Madugula purchasing 29% of the outstanding shares and Flower purchasing 20%. Pursuant to a stockholders agreement, Taub became president, secretary, and treasurer of Dataspace, while Madugula and Flower became vice presidents. After becoming a shareholder, Madugula continued to work for Dataspace. In 2007, Flower exercised his right under the buy-sell agreement and voluntarily withdrew from Dataspace. Taub and Madugula purchased Flower's shares, increasing Madugula's interest to about 36% of the shares. Around this time, with Dataspace allegedly struggling, Taub switched the focus of Dataspace to marketing a new product that it developed called JPAS, a software platform. At the time, Madugula did not object to the new focus. In August 2007, Taub terminated Madugula's employment with Dataspace. Because of his termination, Madugula no longer received a salary from Dataspace, but he maintained his board position and his interest in the company. Madugula sued Taub and Dataspace, asserting: (1) shareholder; (2) breach of the duty of good faith; (3) common-law fraud and misrepresentation; (4) exemplary damages; (5) an appointment of a receiver; and (6) an accounting of Dataspace. Madugula sought damages, the removal of Taub as a director of Dataspace, the appointment of a receiver to protect the value of his stock in Dataspace, an accounting of Dataspace, and all other relief that he was entitled to in equity or law. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Taub and Dataspace, dismissing all counts against them except Madugula's claim of shareholder oppression. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that the plaint language of Michigan's shareholder-oppression statute, did not afford a claimant a right to a jury trial and, instead, expressed a legislative intent to have shareholder-oppression claims heard by a court of equity. Furthermore, the Court held that violations of a shareholder agreement may constitute evidence of shareholder oppression pursuant to the statute. Because the trial court erred by submitting plaintiff's claim to the jury and allowing it to award an equitable remedy, the Court of Appeals erred by affirming the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiff. View "Madugula v. Taub" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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This case began as a dispute between the parties regarding whether plaintiff owed tax under the now-repealed Single Business Tax Act (SBTA) related to plaintiff's contributions to its Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust fund for 1997 through 2001. In this case, the issue for the Supreme Court to decide was what actions a taxpayer must take under MCL 205.30 of the Revenue Act to trigger the accrual of interest on a tax refund. The Court held that in order to trigger the accrual of interest, the plain language of the statute requires a taxpayer to: (1) pay the disputed tax; (2) make a “claim” or "petition" for a refund; and (3) "file" the claim or petition. "Although a "claim" or "petition" need not take any specific form, it must clearly demand, request, or assert a right to a refund of tax payments made to the Department of Treasury that the taxpayer asserts are not due. Additionally, in order to "file" the claim or petition, a taxpayer must submit the claim to the Treasury in a manner sufficient to provide the Treasury with adequate notice of the taxpayer’s claim." View "Ford Motor Co. v. Dept. of Treasury" on Justia Law

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George Badeen (a licensed collection agency manager) and Midwest Recovery and Adjustment, Inc. (a licensed collection agency that Badeen owned and operated) brought a class action against PAR, Inc.; Remarketing Solutions; CenterOne Financial Services, LLC; and numerous other lenders and forwarding companies doing business in Michigan. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant "forwarding companies" acted as collection agencies under Michigan law but did so without a license, in violation of MCL 339.904(1), and that defendant lenders, who hired the forwarding companies, violated Michigan law by hiring unlicensed collection agencies, in violation of MCL 445.252(s). Plaintiffs further alleged that the violations injured them by impeding their business while not complying with Michigan law. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the forwarding companies did not satisfy the definition of "collection agency" because the phrase "soliciting a claim for collection" in that statute referred to asking the debtor to pay the debt, which the forwarding companies did not do. The court granted defendants’ motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the forwarding companies indeed did fall within the statutory definition of collection agencies. Accordingly, the Court vacated Part III(B) of the Court of Appeals' judgment, and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Badeen v. PAR, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

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Chrysler Group, LLC and plaintiff LaFontaine Saline Inc. (LaFontaine), an authorized Chrysler automobile dealer, entered into a Dealer Agreement in 2007, granting LaFontaine the non-exclusive right to sell Dodge vehicles from its location in Saline, Michigan, and defined LaFontaine’s Sales Locality as "the area designated in writing to [LaFontaine] by [Chrysler] from time to time as the territory of [LaFontaine’s] responsibility for the sale of [Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge] vehicles, vehicle parts and accessories . . . ." This case centered on whether the 2010 amendment of the Motor Vehicle Dealer Act (MVDA) (expanding the relevant market area) from a six-mile radius to a nine-mile radius, applied retroactively. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that it did not. The Court therefore vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for reinstatement of summary judgment in favor of Chrysler. View "LaFontaine Saline, Inc. v. Chrysler Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Miller-Davis Company was an "at risk" contractor for the Sherman Lake YMCA's natatorium project. Miller-Davis hired defendant Ahrens Construction, Inc., as a subcontractor to install similar roof systems on three rooms, including the natatorium. After nearly a decade of litigation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings, the indemnification contract underlying the troubled natatorium roof in this case was brought before the Supreme Court. The Court previously held that the six-year period of limitations of MCL 600.5807(8) applied to the parties’ indemnification contract. Upon further review, the Court held that the indemnity clauses in the parties’ subcontract applied here, because the plain language of the indemnification clauses extended to Ahrens’s failure to undertake corrective work as obligated by the subcontract. Furthermore, because the Sherman Lake YMCA made a "claim" upon Miller-Davis which triggered Ahrens’s liability under the indemnity clauses, Ahrens’ failure to indemnify caused the damages Miller-Davis sustained in undertaking the corrective work itself. Finally, the Court held that Miller-Davis’ claim was not barred by the six-year statute of limitations found in MCL 600.5807(8). Rather, Miller-Davis’ breach of contract claim for Ahrens’s failure to indemnify is distinct from its breach of contract claim based on Ahrens’s failure to install the roof according to specifications, and Miller-Davis’s indemnity action necessarily accrued at a later point. The Court reversed that portion of the Court of Appeals’ opinion discussing Miller-Davis’s indemnity claim, and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for entry of judgment in Miller-Davis’s favor and to determine whether Miller-Davis is entitled to attorney’s fees under the relevant indemnification clauses. View "Miller-Davis Co. v. Ahrens Construction, Inc." on Justia Law