Commercial Litigation Alert Blog

NJBIZ Lists Patrick Dunican and Jennifer Phillips Smith  Among Its 2020 “Power 100”

NJBIZ Lists Patrick Dunican and Jennifer Phillips Smith Among Its 2020 “Power 100”

For the tenth consecutive year, NJBIZ has featured attorneys from Gibbons P.C. on its annual “Power 100” list of the most influential people in New Jersey business. Patrick C. Dunican Jr., the firm’s Chairman and Managing Director, is one of a select few people to be named to this list every year it has been published, while Jennifer Phillips Smith, a Director in the firm’s Real Property Department, makes her debut on the 2020 list. This year, NJBIZ notes of Mr. Dunican: The influence of Gibbons PC, one of the state’s biggest law firms, grew this year with the addition of an office in Red Bank. The 94-year-old Newark firm, which has a Trenton outpost that opened in 2002, expanded to Red Bank because it’s a linchpin of Monmouth County and home to some of its most significant clients—nearly half of the county’s top 10 employers are Gibbons clients. Patrick Dunican has been at the helm since 2004 and his business influence extends internationally: he was recognized in August for promoting business ties between New Jersey and Ireland by Donegal County Council with the 2019 Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award. From 2017 to 2018, exports from the Garden State to...

Gibbons Hosts “Keys to Negotiating Better Software & Software-as-a-Service Agreements” Seminar – June 3-5, 2020

Gibbons Hosts “Keys to Negotiating Better Software & Software-as-a-Service Agreements” Seminar – June 3-5, 2020

From June 3-5, Peter J. Frazza, a Director in the Gibbons Commercial & Criminal Litigation Department, will lead a seminar in New York City analyzing the negotiation of software licenses and software-as-a-service agreements, including data protection and privacy issues companies face that are specific to software transactions, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Mr. Frazza has over 30 years of experience handling complex lawsuits and contract negotiations on behalf of licensees and users in software licensing and software-as-a-service matters. For additional seminar details or to register, click here.

Appellate Division Creates Split on Learned-Professionals Exception to New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

Appellate Division Creates Split on Learned-Professionals Exception to New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

In a recent opinion, Shaw v. Shand, the Appellate Division held that home inspectors are not “learned professionals” exempt from liability under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). Instead, the court held that only professionals who have historically been recognized as “learned” based on the requirement of extensive learning or erudition are exempt under the CFA. In Shaw, the plaintiffs hired the defendant, a licensed home inspector, to examine a home for defects. The defendant wrote a report concluding that the property was built with professional workmanship, was made of quality materials, and would only require typical maintenance and upgrades. The plaintiffs purchased the property in reliance on that report. Soon after the plaintiffs made the purchase, however, the property’s front porch collapsed. Plaintiffs then learned that the roof, windows, and sliding glass doors all leaked and required complete replacement and that the driveway would need to be replaced as well. They then discovered that the house had a significant mold problem. At the time the Appellate Division decided Shaw, the plaintiffs had spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing those conditions, and expected to spend tens of thousands more. Defendant’s inspection of plaintiffs’ home was his first as...

States Step Up Data Privacy and Security Regulation

States Step Up Data Privacy and Security Regulation

State legislatures from California and New York have taken action to respond to rising privacy concerns by enacting legislation to protect consumers and their personal information, and the New Jersey legislature is actively working to pass similar legislation to enhance the privacy and security obligations applicable to personal information obtained from New Jersey consumers. This legislation typically requires businesses to inform residents of certain rights regarding the collection or sale of their personal information and to provide notice to residents if a security incident at the company involves their personal information. As deadlines quickly approach for the enforcement of these laws, it is important for businesses to take action now and revisit privacy, security, and storage practices, as well as the associated policies for maintaining appropriate data privacy and security throughout the organization. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which takes effect January 1, 2020, accords significant new privacy rights to consumers and imposes corresponding new requirements on businesses. In general, the CCPA mandates businesses to implement procedures to provide notice to consumers at or before the collection of personal information, to respond to consumers’ requests for the production or deletion of their collected information or to opt-out from its...

Gibbons Hosts “Keys to Negotiating Better Software & Software-as-a-Service Agreements” Seminar – October 16-18, 2019

Gibbons Hosts “Keys to Negotiating Better Software & Software-as-a-Service Agreements” Seminar – October 16-18, 2019

From October 16-18, Peter J. Frazza, a Director in the Gibbons Commercial & Criminal Litigation Department, will lead a seminar in Las Vegas analyzing the negotiation of software licenses and software-as-a-service agreements, including data protection and privacy issues companies face that are specific to software transactions, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Mr. Frazza has over 30 years of experience handling complex lawsuits and contract negotiations on behalf of licensees and users in software licensing and software-as-a-service matters. For additional seminar details or to register, visit https://conta.cc/31AYf0h.

FOI-led: Supreme Court Restricts Public Access to Confidential Business Information

FOI-led: Supreme Court Restricts Public Access to Confidential Business Information

In Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, the United States Supreme Court expanded the meaning of “confidential” information exempt from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In doing so, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and definitively rejected the “competitive harm” requirement adopted by the D.C. Circuit in National Parks & Conservation Assn. v. Morton. Respondent Argus Leader Media filed a FOIA request with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), seeking the names and addresses of all retail stores that participate in a federal food stamp program known as SNAP. Argus Leader also sought each store’s annual redemption data from 2005 to 2010. The USDA declined to disclose store-level SNAP data based on Exemption 4 of FOIA, which precludes disclosure of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” Argus Leader sued the USDA. The district court ordered disclosure based upon the failure to satisfy the “competitive harm” test, which requires a party to establish confidentiality by proving that disclosure is “likely … to cause substantial harm to [its] competitive position.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment. In...

Sharing Communication with Public Relations Firm Destroys Privilege

Sharing Communication with Public Relations Firm Destroys Privilege

The Southern District of New York recently held that sharing attorney-client privileged communications with a public relations firm destroys that privilege. Universal Standard brought a trademark infringement and unfair competition suit against Target. During the course of discovery, documents were produced consisting of emails between Universal Standard, its outside counsel, and BrandLink, a public relations firm. When Universal Standard sought to claw back the documents because they were privileged, Target refused. The court considered whether the fact that emails between Universal Standard and its counsel were also shared with BrandLink should result in a waiver, or whether the communications fall under one of several possible exceptions to the general rule that “disclosure to a third party by the party of a communication with his attorney eliminates whatever privilege the communication may have originally possessed.” First, the court considered whether BrandLink was “essential to allow communications between the attorney and the client, such as an interpreter or accountant.” This exception applies where the third party enables counsel to understand aspects of the client’s own communications that could not otherwise be appreciated, but not where the communications are merely important to the attorney’s ability to represent the client. Here, the emails involved discussions...

Third Circuit Establishes Framework for Determining Third-Party Based Liability under the TCPA

Third Circuit Establishes Framework for Determining Third-Party Based Liability under the TCPA

In a recent precedential decision, the Third Circuit held that an unsolicited fax seeking information does not constitute an unlawful advertisement under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Now, to “establish third-party based liability under the TCPA, a plaintiff must show that the fax: (1) sought to promote or enhance the quality or quantity of a product or services being sold commercially; (2) was reasonably calculated to increase the profits of the sender; and (3) directly or indirectly encouraged the recipient to influence the purchasing decisions of a third party.” In Robert W. Mauthe, M.D., P.C. v. Optum, Inc., the plaintiff claimed that it received unsolicited faxes from Defendants in violation of the TCPA. Defendants maintain a national database of healthcare providers, containing providers’ contact information, demographics, specialties, education, and related data. Defendants market, sell, and license the database typically to healthcare, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies, who use it to update their provider directories, identify potential providers to fill gaps in their network of providers, and validate information when processing insurance claims. To maintain the accuracy of the database, Defendants send unsolicited faxes to healthcare providers listed in the database, requesting them to respond and correct any outdated or inaccurate...

NJ Supreme Court Narrowly Construes Shareholder’s Right to Inspection of Corporate Records

NJ Supreme Court Narrowly Construes Shareholder’s Right to Inspection of Corporate Records

In R.A. Feuer v. Merck & Co., Inc., the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s narrow construction of the scope of a shareholder’s right to inspect a corporation’s records under N.J.S.A. 14A:5-28 and the common law. In the underlying case, a Merck & Co, Inc. shareholder sought documents in order to elicit evidence that Merck acted wrongfully in its acquisition of another pharmaceutical firm. Merck appointed a “Working Group” to respond to the shareholder’s demand, which rejected the shareholder’s request for documents relating to the acquisition. Following this rejection, the shareholder sought twelve broad categories of corporate documents, including documents pertaining to the Working Group’s activities, communications, and formation; documents provided to the board regarding the target pharmaceutical firm and two of its drugs; and the board’s consideration of the shareholder’s demands and the Working Group’s recommendation. Merck disclosed pertinent minutes of the board and of the Working Group, but denied the remainder of the shareholder’s demand. The shareholder sued Merck, alleging entitlement to the documents under N.J.S.A. 14A:5-28(4), which permits a shareholder to compel the corporation to produce its “books and records of account, minutes, and record of shareholders,” and the common law. The trial court denied...

Third Circuit Offers Reminder that Pansy Does Not Govern Sealing of Documents

Third Circuit Offers Reminder that Pansy Does Not Govern Sealing of Documents

The Third Circuit has clarified the standard for sealing documents filed with a court, emphasizing in In re Avandia that litigants who wish to prevent public access to such documents face a more exacting standard than litigants pursuing a protective order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. In connection with its motion for summary judgment as to consumer protection claims filed by two health plans, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) filed certain documents under seal and sought to maintain the confidentiality of those documents after the plans appealed the District Court’s order granting summary judgment to GSK. The District Court granted GSK’s sealing motions in significant part, and the plans appealed. The Third Circuit held that, in ordering the documents to remain sealed, the District Court incorrectly applied the standard, articulated in Pansy v. Stroudsburg, for preserving the confidentiality of discovery materials under Rule 26. In so doing, the Third Circuit opined, the District Court failed to recognize the “strong presumption” of public access that applies to documents filed on the court’s public docket. The Third Circuit held that the District Court should have applied the more exacting common-law right-of-access standard to the motions for continued confidentiality. That standard “begins with a thumb...