Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin manufacturer of building management systems and HVAC equipment, and Edman Controls entered into an agreement giving Edman exclusive rights to distribute Johnson’s products in Panama. In 2009, Johnson breached the agreement by attempting to sell its products directly to Panamanian developers, circumventing Edman. Edman invoked the agreement’s arbitration clause. The arbitrator concluded that Johnson had breached the agreement and that Edman was entitled to damages. Johnson sought to vacate or modify the arbitral award, challenging the way in which the award took account of injuries to Edman’s subsidiaries and the arbitrator’s alleged refusal to follow Wisconsin law. The district court ruled in Edman’s favor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and upheld the district court’s award of attorney fees. View "Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Edman Controls, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1996 Beloit agreed to build high-speed paper-making machines for Indonesian paper companies. Two of the companies executed promissory notes in favor of Beloit reflecting a principal indebtedness of $43.8 million. The paper companies guaranteed the notes; Beloit assigned them to JPMorgan in exchange for construction financing. The machines were delivered in 1998 but did not run as specified. In 2000 the parties settled claims pertaining to the machines but preserved obligations under the notes. JPMorgan sued for nonpayment. The district court held that warranty-based claims were foreclosed by the settlement and that other defenses lacked merit; it awarded JPMorgan $53 million. After the appeal was filed, JPMorgan issued citations to discover assets. Although the companies raised an international conflict-of-law question, the district court ordered compliance with the citations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The settlement waived implied warranty defenses and counterclaims. The fraud defense is also mostly barred; to the extent it is not, the evidence was insufficient to survive summary judgment. The court also rejected defenses that the notes lacked consideration; that the notes were issued for a “special purpose” and were not intended to be repaid; and that JPMorgan is not a holder in due course. The discovery order was not appealable. View "JPMorgan Chase & Co., N.A. v. Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, American citizens, had bank accounts in UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, in 2008 when the UBS tax-evasion scandal broke. The accounts were large and the plaintiffs had not disclosed the existence of the accounts or the interest earned on the accounts on their federal income tax returns, as required. Pursuant to an IRS amnesty program, they disclosed the interest and paid a penalty. They brought a class action to recover from UBS the penalties, interest, and other costs, plus profits they claim UBS made from the class as a result of the fraud and other wrongful acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, noting that the “plaintiffs are tax cheats,” and rejecting an argument that UBS was obligated to give them accurate tax advice and failed to do so. Plaintiffs did not argue that they asked UBS to advise them on U.S. tax law or that the bank volunteered advice. The court stated that: “This is like suing one’s parents to recover tax penalties one has paid, on the ground that the parents had failed to bring one up to be an honest person who would not evade taxes.” The court noted, but did not decide, choice of law issues. View "Thomas v. UBS AG" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are 250 purchasers of timeshare interests in a resort in San José del Cabo, Mexico. They bought the interests between 2004 and 2006 from a Mexican company, DTR, which no longer exists. Each contract stated that “in case of controversy … the parties hereby agree to submit themselves to the applicable laws and competent courts of the City of Mexico, Federal District, expressly waiving any other forum that may correspond to them by reason of their present or future domiciles.” Plaintiffs allege that Raintree and Starwood defrauded them by “pretend[ing] to have a Mexican subsidiary (DTR) take in money for [villas] that would never be built.” The district court dismissed for improper venue. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that, even if the contracts of sale are fraudulent, it doesn’t follow that the clause is. The clause is not "unclear, in illegible print, in Sanskrit or hieroglyphics, or otherwise suggestive of fraudulent intent." There is no evidence that the defendants tried to mislead the plaintiffs concerning the meaning of the clause, or selected a foreign forum to make it difficult for the plaintiffs to enforce their rights under the contracts. Mexico was where the contracts were to be performed. View "Adams v. Raintree Vacation Exch., LLC" on Justia Law

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Iain and Norene were married in Chicago in 1993. They lived in Seattle until 1998 when they moved to Australia. Their eldest child was born in the U.S. in 1997; two younger children were born in Australia. Although Norene and Iain initially intended to stay in Australia for five years, they stayed 12 years. In 2010, they traveled to the U.S., planning that Norene and the children would remain for six months to one year, but Norene filed for divorce in Illinois. Iain offered Norene primary custody, but wanted to be guaranteed custody of the children for nine weeks of their summer vacation and for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, and asserted that the couple’s residence was Australia. Norene did not accept Iain’s offer of settlement. Iain immediately filed a request for the return of the children with the Australian Central Authority charged with administering the Hague Convention, then filed a petition for return in Illinois (International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 U.S.C. 11601), which the district court denied. The Seventh Circuit remanded, stating that further fact-finding was necessary to determine which court should resolve custody. View "Walker v. Walker" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Leibovitch family was traveling along the Trans-Israel highway near Kalkilya through an area bordering the West Bank. Agents of the Palestine Islamic Jihad crossed from the West Bank into Israel and fired upon the Leibovitchs’ minivan using pistols and a Kalishnikov rifle. The Leibovitchs’ seven-year-old child, an Israeli national, was killed by the gunshots. Her three-year-old sister, an American citizen, survived but was severely injured by bullets that shattered bones in her right wrist and pierced her torso. Two grandparents and two siblings were also in the van during the attack, but survived. In 2008, the Leibovitchs brought suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security under the terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605A, for providing material support and resources to the organization that carried out the attacks. The district court entered default judgment against Iran on the claim for injuries sustained by the U.S. citizen child, but found no jurisdiction over intentional infliction of emotional distress claims by other family members, who are not citizens. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the Act confers subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims. View "Leibovitch v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Harley-Davidson had a licensing agreement with a subsidiary of DFS and received notice that the companies had merged. Harley-Davidson did not exercise its right to terminate, but later discovered that DFS had sold unauthorized products bearing the trademark to an unapproved German retailer. Harley-Davidon sent an e-mail saying that it believed DFS was in breach of contract and that it was suspending approval of products. DFS responded in kind. Harley-Davidson then attempted to recover unpaid royalties and to secure from DFS information required under the agreement. DFS refused these attempts, but submitted production samples for a new collection. Harley-Davidson reminded DFS of the termination. DFS advised Harley-Davidson that it had “wrongfully repudiated the License Agreement” and that DFS planned to act unilaterally in accordance with its own views of rights and obligations. The district court granted injunctive relief against DFS, which was attempting to litigate the dispute in Greece. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Harley-Davidson made strong showings that DFS was deliberately breaching a licensing agreement and “has tried numerous legal twists and contortions to try to avoid the legal consequences.” The court rejected an argument that the agreement provision consenting to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin was not binding on DFS. View "H-D MI, LLC v. Hellenic Duty Free Shops, S.A." on Justia Law

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Holocaust survivors and heirs of other Holocaust victims sued, alleging that the Hungarian National Bank and Hungarian National Railway participated in expropriating property from Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Railway plaintiffs claimed subject matter jurisdiction under the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), and assert: takings in violation of international law, aiding and abetting genocide, complicity in genocide, violations of customary international law, unlawful conversion, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and accounting. Bank plaintiffs claimed subject matter jurisdiction under the FSIA expropriation and waiver exceptions, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(1) and assert: genocide, aiding and abetting genocide, bailment, conversion, constructive trust, and accounting. They sought certifications as class actions, seeking to have the railway held responsible for approximately $1.25 billion, and the bank held jointly and severally responsible with private banks for approximately $75 billion. The district court declined to dismiss. The Seventh Circuit held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine and remanded with instructions that plaintiffs either exhaust available Hungarian remedies identified by defendants or present a legally compelling reason for failure to do so. The court should allow jurisdictional discovery with respect to whether the railway is engaged in “commercial activity” in the U.S. View "Abelsz v. Magyar Nemzeti Bank" on Justia Law

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Holocaust survivors and heirs of other Holocaust victims sued, alleging that defendant banks participated in expropriating property from Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1330(a), the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C.1350, and federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, they alleged: genocide, aiding and abetting genocide, bailment, conversion, constructive trust, and accounting. Plaintiffs sought certification as a class action and asked that each bank be held jointly and severally responsible for damages of approximately $75 billion. This case and a parallel case against the Hungarian national railway have produced nine appeals and mandamus petitions. The district court declined to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit, noting that such a decision would ordinarily not be reviewable, stated that: “This is the rare case, however, in which it is appropriate for this court to exercise its discretion to issue a writ of mandamus to confine the district court to the exercise of its lawful jurisdiction” The court cited the extraordinary scale of the litigation, the inherent involvement with U.S. foreign policy, and the “crystal clarity” of the lack of foundation for exercising general personal jurisdiction over the banks. View "Abelesz v. OTP Bank" on Justia Law

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Most of the world's reserves of potash, a mineral used primarily in fertilizer, are in Canada, Russia, and Belarus. Defendants are producers with mines in those countries. Plaintiffs are direct and indirect potash purchasers in the U.S. They allege that producers operated a cartel through which they fixed prices in Brazil, China, and India, and that inflated prices in those markets influenced the price of potash in the U.S. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, 15 U.S.C. 6a. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The world market for potash is highly concentrated and U.S. customers account for a high percentage of sales. This is not a “House-that-Jack-Built situation in which action in a foreign country filters through many layers and finally causes a few ripples” in the U.S. Foreign sellers allegedly created a cartel, took steps outside the U.S. to drive the price up of a product that is wanted in the U.S., and, after succeeding, sold that product to U.S. customers. The payment of overcharges by those customers was objectively foreseeable, and the amount of commerce is substantial. View "Minn-Chem, Inc. v. Agrium, Inc." on Justia Law