Category: General Litigation

Third Circuit Permits Extra-Strong Restrictive Covenants for Extra-Good Employees

Third Circuit Permits Extra-Strong Restrictive Covenants for Extra-Good Employees

In a recent “precedential” opinion, the Third Circuit, applying New Jersey law, approved an employer’s use of an additional, extra-stringent restrictive covenant for its high-performing salespeople, subject to careful blue lining by the court to ensure that the covenant does not create an unreasonable burden for the employees. ADP, LLC, the well-known provider of payroll and other human resources services, required its new sales employees, as a condition of employment, to sign a Sales Representative Agreement and a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Together, the two agreements essentially prohibited the employee, for one year after the termination of employment, from soliciting ADP customers “with which the Employee was involved or exposed” while employed at ADP. Once employed, ADP’s sales staff could earn stock awards by meeting certain sales targets. But to receive an award, the employee had to sign a third agreement, a Restrictive Covenant Agreement, which imposed still more post-employment restrictions on the employee. Among other things, the Restrictive Covenant Agreement essentially prohibited the employee for two years after termination from soliciting all current and prospective ADP customers, whether or not the employee was “involved or exposed” to the customer while employed by ADP. The Restrictive Covenant Agreement also contained a geographic...

Third Circuit Considers Whether Employer May Access Employee’s Password-Protected Information from Work Computer

Third Circuit Considers Whether Employer May Access Employee’s Password-Protected Information from Work Computer

In a recent “Not Precedential” opinion, a divided Third Circuit panel engaged in an instructive and interesting debate about whether, under New Jersey law, an employer may access and monitor a former employee’s password-protected accounts using information the employee left on his work computer. The case involved a group of employees who left an employer en masse to join a competing enterprise. One of the departing employees failed to log out of his Facebook account before he returned his computer to the employer. The employer was thus able to—and did—monitor for more than a month the employee’s password-protected Facebook activity, which included Facebook Messenger exchanges among the other former employees in which the employees admitted to improperly sending the employer’s confidential information to their new employer. When the employer sought a preliminary injunction against the former employees, the employees claimed that the old employer had unclean hands—and thus was not entitled to an injunction—because of its post-termination monitoring of the employee’s password-protected Facebook activity and other password-protected accounts. The district court rejected the unclean hands defense and entered an injunction. On appeal the majority held that the employer’s monitoring of the employee’s accounts was not sufficiently related to the employees’...

CCPA Amendments Expand Private Right of Action and AG’s Enforcement Power

CCPA Amendments Expand Private Right of Action and AG’s Enforcement Power

On February 22, 2019, another proposed amendment to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was published. If enacted, this amendment will increase businesses’ potential exposure under the CCPA by, among other things, expanding the scope of private rights of action under the Act and eliminating a cure period prior to a civil enforcement action by the California Attorney General. The CCPA, originally enacted in June 2018 and first amended in September 2018, sets forth an entirely new privacy and security regime for many entities doing business in California. It imposes extensive requirements on the collection, use, and storage of consumer personal information, and applies to many businesses located both in and outside of the state. The deadline for all businesses to comply with the CCPA’s requirements is January 1, 2020, and the California Attorney General may bring an enforcement action six months after the passage of implementing regulations, or July 1, 2020, whichever comes first. The clock is ticking … The CCPA applies to any for-profit entity that (i) does business in California, (ii) collects “personal information” and/or determines the purposes and means of processing “personal information,” and (iii) satisfies at least one of the following threshold criteria: Has annual...

New Jersey Supreme Court Expands Reach of the Consumer Fraud Act to Include Customized Merchandise

New Jersey Supreme Court Expands Reach of the Consumer Fraud Act to Include Customized Merchandise

Relying on the remedial purpose of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), the New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that customized merchandise falls within the reach of the CFA. In All the Way Towing, LLC v. Bucks County International, Inc., plaintiffs, an individual and his limited liability towing company, entered into a contract with defendants for the purchase of a medium-duty 4×4 truck to be customized with an autoloader tow unit to meet plaintiffs’ particular needs. After the manufacturer attempted delivery on four occasions of a tow truck with significant problems, plaintiffs believed the situation to be “hopeless,” rejected delivery and demanded return of a $10,000.00 deposit. The manufacturer refused return of the deposit. Plaintiffs then brought suit for, among other things, violation of the CFA. The trial court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer on all claims, holding in pertinent part that a customized “tow truck was not something available ‘to the public for sale’” under the CFA. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the line of cases that excluded “complex” goods or services from CFA claims was not applicable here because there was no showing that the tow truck at issue was any more “complex” than any other tow...

Delaware Supreme Court Orders Production of Emails in Response to Section 220 Demand and Refuses to Restrict Knock-On Litigation to Delaware

Delaware Supreme Court Orders Production of Emails in Response to Section 220 Demand and Refuses to Restrict Knock-On Litigation to Delaware

In KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies Inc., the Delaware Supreme Court required a corporation to produce emails in response to a “books and records” demand under 8 Del. C. §220; it also refused to limit any knock-on litigation on the merits to the Delaware Court of Chancery. KT4 is a stockholder in Palantir and received certain rights under a series of Investor Rights Agreements and a First Refusal and Co-Sale Agreement. After a falling out between KT4 and Palantir’s management, Palantir amended the Investor Rights Agreement in ways detrimental to KT4. KT4 responded with a request to inspect Palantir’s “books and records” pursuant to 8 Del. C. §220, which entitles a stockholder to inspect a corporation’s “books and records” if, and to the extent that, the requested inspection “is for a proper purpose.” Palantir refused to comply, and KT4 filed a §220 action in the Delaware Court of Chancery to compel production of the requested documents. The Court of Chancery ruled that KT4 had a statutory “proper purpose” of investigating three areas of potential corporate wrongdoing: 1) Palantir’s failure to hold stockholder meetings, 2) Palantir’s amendment of the Investor Rights Agreement, and 3) Palantir’s potential breach of the Investor...

New Jersey Chancery Division Adopts Watered-Down Trulia Standard and Approves Disclosure-Only Settlement of Merger Litigation

New Jersey Chancery Division Adopts Watered-Down Trulia Standard and Approves Disclosure-Only Settlement of Merger Litigation

Nearly three years ago, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its landmark opinion in In re Trulia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, in which Chancellor Bouchard strongly criticized the use of disclosure-only settlements in class-action merger challenges and subjected such settlements to a heightened level of judicial review. In a disclosure-only settlement the merging parties agree to enhance their disclosures about the challenged merger in exchange for a broad release from a settlement class comprised of their shareholders. According to Chancellor Bouchard, all too often the enhanced disclosures in such settlements provide little, if any, value to the shareholders, while class counsel get large fee awards and the corporations get “deal insurance” because their shareholders have released them and their boards from liability arising from the transaction. Because disclosure-only settlements so rarely give meaningful relief to the shareholders, Chancellor Bouchard held that a court should approve them only if “the supplemental disclosures address a plainly material misrepresentation or omission[] and the subject matter of the proposed release is narrowly circumscribed.” In the first published New Jersey state court opinion addressing the Trulia standard, the Chancery Division in Strougo v. Ocean Shore Holding Co. followed Trulia in holding that disclosure-only settlements are to be...

Third Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Shed Light on What is Needed For Article III Injury-in-Fact Standing

Third Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Shed Light on What is Needed For Article III Injury-in-Fact Standing

In Long v. SEPTA, the Third Circuit considered whether and when a violation of a statute is a standing-conferring injury-in-fact satisfying the Constitution’s “case or controversy” requirement. At issue in Long was whether the plaintiffs, who were denied employment by SEPTA when background checks disclosed disqualifying criminal histories, could sue SEPTA for failing to provide them with copies of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and copies of their background consumer reports before being denied employment, both of which are required by FCRA. The district court dismissed the complaint, stating that the plaintiffs did not allege a “concrete injury in fact,” because the alleged FCRA violations were “bare procedural violations.” On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide the plaintiffs notice of their FCRA rights. The Court held that, because the plaintiffs understood their rights well enough to bring the suit, they were not injured by SEPTA’s failure to give them notice of those rights and, therefore, lacked standing to pursue the claim. But the Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide copies of the plaintiffs’ consumer reports. The Third Circuit...

New Jersey Supreme Court Approves Special Rules for Matters in the Complex Business Litigation Program

New Jersey Supreme Court Approves Special Rules for Matters in the Complex Business Litigation Program

On January 1, 2015, the New Jersey Superior Court implemented statewide the Complex Business Litigation Program (“CBLP”) for complex commercial and construction cases with amounts in controversy exceeding $200,000. Each case in the CBLP is managed by a single judge assigned in each county to handle cases in the program, thus providing each case with individualized case management and a jurist experienced in managing and resolving similar matters. On July 27, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted special rules for cases in the CBLP to take effect on September 1, 2018. The current rules in Parts I and IV will continue to apply to CBLP cases, unless contradicted by a new rule. The new rules, largely adapted from rules in the federal courts and other business courts, mainly modify certain aspects of case management, discovery, and motion practice. The more substantial practice changes prompted by the new rules are: Initial Disclosures: Following the federal courts’ innovation of requiring mandatory disclosures, litigants in the CBLP will be required to disclose early in the case: 1) all individuals with knowledge of information that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses, 2) copies or a description of (including...

Wrap-Up of United States Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 Term

Wrap-Up of United States Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 Term

With the close of the United States Supreme Court’s 2017-18 term, we offer this wrap-up, focusing on decisions of special interest from the business and commercial perspective (excluding patent cases): In a much talked-about decision in the antitrust field, the Court held in Ohio v. American Express Co. that American Express’s anti-steering provisions in its merchant contracts, which generally preclude merchants from encouraging customers to use credit cards other than American Express, are not anticompetitive and therefore do not violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In so holding, the Court found that credit card networks are two-sided transaction platforms, one side being the merchant and the other side being the merchant’s customer. Thus, when assessing whether the anti-steering agreements are anticompetitive, the effects on both sides of the platform must be considered. The plaintiffs’ proof that American Express had increased its merchant fees over a period of time was insufficient to show an anticompetitive effect because it neglected the customer side of the platform, where consumers have received the benefit of ever-increasing rewards from credit card companies and other improvements in services that those higher merchant fees enable. Bringing an end to a fight that New Jersey had been waging...

SCOTUS to Have the Last Word on “Wholly Groundless” Standard for Delegation of Arbitrability

SCOTUS to Have the Last Word on “Wholly Groundless” Standard for Delegation of Arbitrability

If the parties to an arbitration agreement have agreed that an arbitrator should decide whether a dispute is arbitrable, the question of arbitrability should be decided by an arbitrator. But who should decide arbitrability when the suggestion of arbitrability is so frivolous as to be wholly groundless? Should the party resisting arbitration be required to arbitrate arbitrability before seeking judicial relief? The United States Supreme Court will soon decide. According to the United States Supreme Court, questions of arbitrability are “undeniably . . . issues for judicial determination”—“unless the parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise.” Thus, when contracting parties have clearly and unmistakably agreed that an arbitrator must decide questions of arbitrability, the parties’ dispute should be sent to an arbitrator in the first instance to determine whether the dispute is arbitrable. Some circuits, however, provide exception to this rule where the argument for arbitrability is “wholly groundless.” In such instances, the parties’ dispute can proceed directly to court without a stop at an arbitrator’s desk. The Fifth Circuit initially adopted this rule in Douglas v. Regions Bank, and most recently applied it in Archer and White Sales Inc. v. Henry Schein, Inc. In Archer, a dental-equipment distributor sued its...